Have we gone overboard with categories?

+26 votes
You can hardly see the biography on this profile for all the categories....have we gone overboard?

What is the purpose?

After a little more looking at the categories...my question goes to the Military and War group...so, are we creating categories for every ribbon awarded?
WikiTree profile: Dwight Eisenhower
asked in Policy and Style by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (404k points)
edited by Robin Lee
Thank you Jon! It would be fascinating to know if Marion did give all his men a pair of spurs. I don't know what rank McKinney had, if he was an officer or not. But the spur still exists.

I believe the particular profile was being used as an example to start a discussion about the use of categories. As for placement of categories throughout the narrative that doesn't change the current display of categories. You can type  [[Category:Blah]] anywhere in the text and it will still show up at the top of the profile. That's how categories currently work. A separate g2g thread is currently discussing that placement.

Both these threads are surfacing massive disagreement about the purpose of categories. However someone did find help text about their purpose. See Categories FAQ-- they are for organizing profiles. But many people are using them for other purposes.
No.  It's possible to place categories else where in the bio.... you just need to use the correct formatting.

My answer still stands. Not everything needs or should be micro-managed.. my answer is still applicable whether you are talking about this one profile or others.
Terri, you can *place* categories anywhere throughout a profile. But they won't *display* where you placed them. The display groups them at the top of the page. Test it out. This is hard wired into wikitree's operating system. There is no way a user can change this.  

And I could just as easily say that a small group of people are trying to micromanage by misusing categories from their intended purpose. But to me this isn't about micromanagement at all.

It's about discussing the purpose of categories and how to deal with situations when categories are being used for other purposes than for what they were intended. It's about coming to some sense of shared understanding for guidelines to follow when there are disagreements.
You are right... what I was thinking of.. just places the link but doesn't populate.

This still doesn't change. What is being suggested is "dictation" on how many and which ones should be used on a profile. The vocal one or two people should not place a dictation on the many.
Terri, this is exactly why we need standards and guidelines. Because to you, the "vocal one or two people" are those saying one thing; to others of us, the "vocal one or two people" are saying the opposite. I.e., we have disagreement. This is why it's so important that there be a shared understanding of what the purpose of categories is, and that the usage of categories align with that purpose. Otherwise, you have chaos and havoc.

One voice.
Okay, I had to look.

It's not one or two. I counted on this thread ten people who vocalized concern about the over-use of categories; I counted six people who defend the use of any category use and decry any kind of control.

Just wanting to be clear on the facts.

Basically, we're pretty split about it. But it's not just "one or two" on either side.
Standardization has its place... but not when it's being used as a front for dictating.

It's the one or two that feel so strongly to restrict the freedom of collaboration. You can standardize away collaboration---it's veiled as dictating.

At any rate I will follow whatever WikiTree decides.. I just hate to see another chance to have the freedom to collaborate disappear.

gee, all this for poor old Ike..

if it makes the haters feel better, I did not get around to adding all of his foreign awards before we at the Mil and War project got put on hold creating new categories...  so when we get back to it, there will be more categories added...

And to the point of not liking the Collars of the Order of the Queen of Sheba, it is not a necklace, or bling, it is the decoration.  While many U.S. folks may not be familiar with this type of thing because most U.S. decorations do not have different grades....  

based on either the action, or the rank/position of the person receiving the award, there can be several levels, each distinguished by what you are presented.  the names of these grades vary based on timeframe and country, , but generically, the grades are often called what is in the ()

1st grade (Knight): medal, worn on chest

2nd grade (Officer): medal with rosette, worn on chest

3rd grade (Commander): medal suspended on neck ribbon

4th grade (Grand Officer), medal suspended on neck ribbon with star device on chest

5th grade (Knight Grand Cross), medal suspended on chest sash, with star device on chest

6th grade (Collar), medal with ornate collar (remember all those period England/Grewat Britain movies where the high ranking people have collars, sashes, etc?, that is not a fashion statement, it signifies their decorations or is a badge of office)

others commented why are there pictures of the decoration/ribbon on the category page....  people may only have a picture of the person in uniform, a description of the decoration, etc, by putting the picture here, it can help a person be sure to pick the right category for the award

as to why are there categories with none, 1 or only a few people in them, they were created at the same time to try and have them appear in somewhat of a standard format and in the same place, to make it easier to search for them.  Same thing is being done with the Royal categories for Kings, Queens, Dukes, Duchesses, etc, there are many of them that are currently empty or only have a few profiles in them at the present time.


Thank you Keith!!!

15 Answers

+17 votes
Yep. That is overboard and not informative or helpful.
answered by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (430k points)
And his college and high school aren't among them!
+19 votes
If all of those categories are the most specific category and he belongs in them, I don't think it is overboard. Categories are one of the most useful parts of the site. You may not be interested in a list of people who received the Mexican Border Service Medal (for example), but someone else might, and we shouldn't leave Eisenhower off the list because he belongs in too many other categories and it looks cluttered.

Maybe Wikitree should consider placing categories at the bottom of the profile like Wikipedia does. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower
answered by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (163k points)
Many of the categories on that Eisenhower page are probably approrpriate for Wikipedia, but have no relevance for genealogy.

My point exactly, as an example the Order of Soloman has been awarded to 6 people....We need a category for that???

I agree that categories like "libra" and very very small categories are not necessary.

But military honors is one of the examples of appropriate categories given on the categorization page

I can understand categories for military honours when someone has been involved in a military conflict or other service, but many of the ones on Eisenhowers profile look like they are honourary.

Wouldn't it be easier to have a link to the Wikipedia page where not only all his honours are listed but most of them are linked to articles about the actual honour/order, which provides more explanation than WikiTree could ever hope to achieve?

Perhaps as Ellen has suggested WikiTree should do what it is good at - genealogy and let other Wikis provide extra details?
Further to my comment about Wikipedia... On occasion I've suggested to other Wikipedia contributors that some of their efforts would be more appropriate for the missing of WikiTree (for example, when a Wikipedia contributor tries to include the details of the personal lives of a notable person's distant relatives in the Wikipedia article about that person). I'll make a similar comment here about contributions that are more appropriate to the mission of Wikipedia than to the mission of WikiTree.

Wikipedia has many lists and list-like categories because of the perception that a comprehensive encyclopedia should have comprehensive coverage of topics like the recipients of the 1958 Academy Awards (the sort of thing that would be a topic for a list; the individual award winners would also be in a Academy Award Winners category, but not year-specific categories) and the notable recipients of a particular military decoration. It appears to me that some of the WikiTree military-decoration categories that Eisenhower is in were created in emulation of Wikipedia -- the only category members are notable people who are also listed in the corresponding Wikipedia category for that same decoration. It seems to me it's more efficient for WikiTree contributors to focus on documenting people and families -- including connecting notable people to those distant relatives who can't be documented in Wikipedia -- and leave the encyclopedic categorization to Wikipedia. Yes, it makes sense for WikiTree to use categories to group together the people who were decorated veterans of a particular war, but the matter of listing the details of honors like the ones held be Eisenhower should be left in Wikipedia's domain.
More simply put, if the category exists mostly to contain information about a particular award, it's an encyclopedia category, not a genealogy category. Wikitree categories should provide salient information about the people in the category, or clues to resources for researching those people.
The purpose of a category is to index and organize profiles, not add information to a profile. They exist to help people find profiles they might be interested in.

Many of those military awards were given to people who are not notable, and would not qualify for a Wikipedia article. So they wouldn't be included in the Wikipedia list. If one of my ancestors or distant relatives received one of those awards, I would want to know, and I might want to see a list of other people who received that award, and then find out the family history of some of those people to see if they have anything in common with my relative.

And Wikitree isn't that great at genealogy vs. its competitors. Categories is one of the only unique things it does.

Yes, the bronze star is a good example of a military award that is worth having as a category for people who were not notable, as well as some who were. The same cannot be said of Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria and the other 14 subcategories of Category: Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria, the category Order of the Queen of Sheba and its 6 subcategories, and many of the other military recognitions on the Eisenhower profile.

What's wrong with Category: Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria? A quick google search shows that it is still being awarded, and to people that aren't notable enough for a Wikipedia article. Just because there aren't many profiles tagged with the category yet doesn't mean the category shouldn't exist.

Wikitree needs to focus on adding data (Eisenhower's profile only has a link to Wikipedia) instead of working on destroying potentially useful data.

If the categories are distracting, then that is a problem with the user interface of Wikitree, not the data.

+12 votes
I believe we have.  Categories for each aspect of a person's life are a little much.
answered by Trudy Roach G2G6 Pilot (162k points)

For me, the very last category on the current list for Eisenhower (Category:Libra) is the most absurd. What is the possible relevance to genealogy of Signs of the Zodiac?

There have been discussions in the Categorization Project about the Signs of the Zodiac categories.  The consensus so far has been that they are of no genealogical value, but harmless, and there has not been a consensus so far that they should be retired.  I can think of two reasons for retiring them being (1) that in the case of Eisenhower, they add clutter to an already full profile and (2) they add no genealogical value to the profile.  

In one sense, since zodiac signs cover every birthday, everyone would have a zodiac sign.  In another sense, though, the notion that zodiac signs impact one's personality and life history is a particular belief system held by some people but not by others.  From that perspective, zodiac signs become relevent to a profile if THAT person who is profiled held a belief system that held zodiac signs important.   In other words, if Dwight Eisenhower himself thought it important to know that he was a Libra, that changes things a bit, but I would see including that in the narrative.  If a category, it would be more like Category: People who thought Signs of the Zodiac Are Important.....
Categories for Zodiac signs are non-informative and should be removed.

They can be derived from a person's birthday.

They add no genealogical value.

Even from an astrological perspective, it's incomplete and without context. The "Zodiac Sign" is only the sign that the sun is in when born. Other planets and points are also in zodiac signs when born, and all of it would be needed for completion. So just adding a category for a "Sun Sign" is meaningless, even if you were into Astrology.
Eric, I agree with you.  Zodiac signs neither contribute to genealogical research nor do they express any particular kind of recognition which might honor a person.  

This puts us at the cusp, however, of a major change in WikiTree -- so far I don't believe we have entire categories of a category that we are saying, "thou shalt not."  "And if you put it up we will take it down."  So I think there needs to be consensus within WikiTree that there are certain types of things which are forbidden to categorize, and of these types, Zodiac would be the most obvious.  

Once there is such a consensus, I think the categorization project page on "how to categorize" should be amended to include the forbidden items, naming zodiac as the first.
+8 votes
I don't see any benefit to adding categories here. No one has collaborated with me due to a category. Seems like people researching the same county, same parish, etc. could use categories to collaborate but they aren't AFAICT. I would rather see local categories replaced with small, active projects, and really broad projects that do nothing replaced with categories.
answered by Mikey Anonymous G2G6 Mach 4 (44.4k points)
+3 votes
I do not see any Military and War Project Badge, so why are you demanding an answer from that Project? Or are you upset because he was a highly decorated War President?

Categories are not awarded they are chosen for specific reasons. I see no problem with the number of categories being used, as long as they are applicable.  All you have to do is scroll down to see the rest. It's not like that category holder is using neon flashing lights to daw attention to them.

Are you now advocating further dictatorship on this site? Where do you want to draw the line? Would you consider 4 too many? 5? Perhaps 25? Who do you recommend being the category police in deciding how many and which ones? Wikitree Admin? The Rangers? The Leaders? Obviously not the Profile Manager/s - cause he already made a decision. What other small right will be stripped from the Project Manager?

We have already been restricted to the number of Project templates that a profile can display. I urge you all to consider this question and the possible results very carefully. Once "rights" are gone, they seldom get returned.
answered by Terri Rick G2G6 Mach 3 (35.5k points)

My main concern about category collections like that one is the negative effect on people's ability to read and process information (i.e. human bandwidth). That's an enormous mass of data to wade through! WikiTree might also have concerns about website capacity (Internet bandwidth); I can't comment on that.

It's hard for me to imagine a benefit to WikiTree (a genealogy website) from having categories like Order of the Queen of Sheba and its 6 subcategories, which among them contain a grand total of two profiles. I appreciate that information like that displayed on category pages like Collars of the Order of the Queen of Sheba and Order of Leopold (Belgium) is of great interest to some people, but I don't see WikiTree as a free webhosting service for that sort of content.

I'm equally sure that any category someone would deem of great interest, someone else would see no interest of value in using.  The danger here is taking one persons opinion or value system to decide it reflects everybody elses. This line of thinking is elitism.
Terri, having a standard is not elitism. It offers a guide for us to follow in order to have some level of consistency throughout the site and to turn to when there are disagreements.

Currently, wikitree has no documented standard or criteria or even guidance for when to create a category.  I'd always hoped the categorization project would draft such a standard/guide but a review of the project page indicates their focus is mostly standardizing the format and hierarchy of existing categories.

As far as "WikiTree might also have concerns about website capacity (Internet bandwidth)" goes, I believe Chris has stated in other related threads that categories don't have negative impacts (please correct me if that is not correct Chris).

The current guidelines state that all members can create categories, but projects have been asked not to and have been told that they do not control the categories within the projects. The Categories Project has the task of organizing the category structure . . . which in my mind does not empower the project to control the creation of and use of categories. Kind of like the limited government provision within the US Constitution, powers not specifically given to the project are reserved to WikiTree members in toto.

So where does that leave us?

In my opinion, if a member creates and finds useful a category, even if only to that one member, it is allowed within the current guidelines. Whether or not categories are added to or remain on a profile is left to the desire of the profile manager or managers. In certain circumstances, vis a vis profiles within the scope of the Notables project, the project's guidelines should govern whether particular categories are included and possibly the number of categories.

It would maybe be helpful if, like profiles, categories had managers (and maybe trusted lists) and they were displayed on the category pages. That would provide a point of contact for each category and possibly lead to better collaboration in their use.

What we don't need are dictatorial rules imposed limiting the ability of WikiTree members to find use of the system and database. Collaborative guidelines with some flexibility is by far the better policy.

I mentioned bandwidth because I was looking at some categories that contain no WikiTree profiles or free-space pages, but have category pages that contain extensive text and images. I recognize that some folks are fascinated by decorations like the Order of the Queen of Sheba and the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria, but I don't see justification for a page like Category: Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria on a genealogy website -- particularly seeing that Wikipedia manages to cover Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria and its notable recipients in just one consolidated article and 8 categories, in contrast with the 16 categories here in WikiTree. I fully understand that people want to maintain webpages to illustrate the current and historical insignia of the largely ceremonial recognitions awarded by various nations, but I don't think that this is a valid purpose for a WikiTree category.

John B, where do you find the guideline about limitations on categories by projects? Thanks.

I constructed that sentence badly. There is no guideline that states that projects are not to create categories. What has been stated is the projects "are forbidden to manage categories", with management falling under the control of the Category Project. Mea culpa, I apologize for misstating that.

As I understand it after re-reading the Category Project emails I've received, the project manages the structure and hierarchy of categories in a two step process:

  1. Structure and hierarchy changes are proposed, discussed, and voted on here on G2G, and if approved
  2. the Category Project leader has the final say if those changes are made.

In practice, in my opinion, there has been some over-reach where the project has "managed" some categories in effect out of existence, and arbitrarily restructured others without much collaboration with those who created or are using certain categories. This is the reason I would like to have category managers and trusted lists like there are for profiles. This would, hopefully, open more & better lines of communication leading to a healthier structure of the category tree and reduced tension about all things category related.

+6 votes
I don't use categories at all, I know I should, but I find the task of looking through the list of categories daunting and just avoid them like the plague. For my families of origin I have well-flushed out, I don't use them, unless they have been added by others. But the two branches of my family that have dead ends I do, in hopes that that might lead to new collaboration.
answered by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 3 (37.3k points)
Susan, you're not alone.
I agree. I joined wiki tree for the purpose of documenting my family and finding links to others with similar interests.  I come from a line of hard working people, mostly farmers,  who settled new territories, defended our country,, and raised their families the best they could.  The biography and sources are what matter to me. Cherry

Indeed, the "anything goes" attitude toward categories has led to a  proliferation of categories whose intended purpose and relationship to other categories are very difficult to discern -- a situation that probably is bewildering to many of us -- and could make categorization a daunting task. Case in point is a set of three categories I found at the top level under Category: Professions: Milk Delivery Men, Milkmen, and Milk Vendors (the last of which has subcategories). I suspect that all four people in these categories were in the same line of work.

+13 votes
Categories are a constantly evolving phenomenon.  I try to keep promoting the question, "how does this category promote genealogy?"  We often use categories for recognition rather than research, which I see as a secondary goal.  In the case of Dwight Eisenhower, the question would be, "how much additional recognition does the man need?  

My military service resulted in 6 ribbons.  1 was given to everyone who wore a uniform in that period and two were given to everyone who served in Vietnam.  1 was given to an entire unit.  These are nice to literally decorate a uniform, but I can't see cluttering up my profile with them.  I also received a bronze star for meritorious service in a war zone.  Now, THAT felt like it deserved a category on my profile!  I can't see Eisenhower benefiting from a category for every single ribbon on his uniform.  That's just silly.

But there are a lot of differing opinions about categories.  One comment is negative about categories involving a very few people.  I would counter that I find what I call "micro-categories" VERY useful for genealogical research.  In Maryland, property carried names, and tended to stay with families.  So I category for the profiles associated with a particular piece of property can be very helpful in sorting which person named John belonged in which family.  That doesn't mean that every piece of property has to be associated with every person in Maryland!
answered by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (200k points)
+3 votes
I don't think so.  If one takes the time to study the history of the individual, and the dedication, accomplishments, and patriotic service, the wars, what happened in the battles, etc. etc. I think these categories are much deserved!  I think that George has done an excellent job on this profile.  Hats off to him for finding all those categories!!!

What the problem is for me is finding all the damn categories that are available to note on a specific profile, especially the category html.  It would take me forever to find all of those that are President Eisenhower's page. I think that a person with the right experience in writing programs could make Wikitree much easier to use.  Most of us, like myself, have very little experience and we just cut an paste.  Several of my friends don't use WikiTree because it has become too technically hard to use. I agree with them, but I deal with it and try to do the best I can.  I like WikiTree and think it has a lot of value.

And, let me, as a medic during the Vietnam War, state that to me the categories, especially in the Military and War categories, are there for a purpose.  If one takes the time to click on one they might understand why we have the freedoms that we have today in our country.  Which, by the way are going away because folks don't know how we got them!

I vote for having as many categories as possible but a better way to find them all.  President Dwight 'I like Ike' Eisenhower deserves every bit of those categories!  As many others do as well!

Just my thoughts folks!
answered by Scott Lee G2G6 Mach 1 (15k points)
edited by Scott Lee

I just want to follow up on this question of having too many categories.  How can we have too many of anything?

I just thought I would visit George's very well done profile on President Eisenhower and select just one of the categories listed.  I chose the "Order of the Cloud and Banner".  I went to the category page on wikitree and read it, then googled it and visited Wikipedia.

Here are Dwight's awards: https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/awards_medals.html

There are 15 known members of the Order of the Cloud and Banner,  including Dwight Eisenhower:

This military award was first established in 1935.  The order is divided into nine grades.  It is awarded for 'contributions to national security or quelling internal unrest.  The next higher award is the Order of Loyalty and Valour and next lower award, the Order of Loyalty and Diligence.  Dwight received his award in 1947. Dwight's award was the 1st grade of 9, with the Special Grand Cordon.

I list all of this because I think it is important not to just build a profile and show place of birth and mom and dad etc., but to show who this person is and what they did.  Has anyone ever looked at Wikipedia's page on President Eisenhower?  If you do, make a pot of tea and put a log on the fire...because you are in for a real treat!

So you say that a grand total of 15 people have ever received the Order of the Cloud and Banner, which is an award bestowed by the government of the Republic of China, apparently only to non-Chinese. (The sort of thing that governments hand out during a state visit of a foreign dignitary.) Yet WikiTree has 10 categories for this "Order"!!! Those aren't categories for use on a genealogy website -- they are an online museum for the worshipful display and description of the various insignia associated with this "Order."

I give up!  This is the only thing that I have encountered in the field of genealogy that turns me off and it is the bitterness and selfishness of some who seem to think that they have a handle on the situation.  I really could care less what you do with the categories on this site as I am quickly becoming tired of this type of attitude and could spend my time elsewhere.  For me, genealogy is the study of all of our ancestors, not just who they are, but where they came from, what they accomplished and what kind of people they were.  It seems that some would just love to argue a point when the point doesn't even matter!  I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving Day as it is part of our heritage only because of what some of our ancestors did...but I guess it really doesn't matter, does it?
After reviewing your profile page, I see that you are one of the leaders of this website.  Because of this I am dropping my membership in WikiTree!  Even though I have enjoyed being part of the many projects and building profiles, I see no reason to spend my time with people like you!  My hope is that you change your attitude towards other members feelings.  Thank the good lord that we are not all like you!
I don't understand how "categories" are "much deserved". The awards themselves are much deserved, yes. And any awards should be described on a person's profile. However, the category should not be confused with the award itself.

The problem is that the Categorization project does not have clear guidelines as to what should, and what should not, be a category. So, of course, there will be arguments on both sides.
Anonymous Anonymous, are you saying that I am one of the leaders of this website?? Where did you find that?

Anonymous Anonymous I Thank You for your Military service !

+16 votes

Let me add a thought which doesn't yet seem to be part of this discussion.  

The purpose of a category is to group profiles.  In its most conservative form, that means that if a profile has on it "Category: Keeney Wagon Train", it should be assumed that you want to click on the category and see what profiles are on that category page, because the people in this category had some connection with each other which is important to know;  having the category name on the profile itself is simply the means for getting you there.

If you will never want to go to the category page and see what profiles are there, then one could argue that there is no purpose for having the category.  That is the argument to prohibit the zodiac:  if profiles were all properly filled out, each sign of the zodiac would have 1/12 of all the profiles on WikiTree and there would be zero benefit from going to the category page to see which several million names are Aries.

A lot of the discussion really is about Honors rather than Categories. With an Honor, the important thing is what's on the profile itself; you might never want to go to a grouping of profiles with the names of others receiving the same honor.  

There is no reason whatsoever that the profile narrative cannot contain a section titled ==Honors==, with all the honors listed.  It could be at the beginning, the middle or the end of the narrative.  

Many of the categories on the Dwight Eisenhower profile are properly Honors rather than categories.  A Category should direct you away from the profile to the group sharing a common feature;  an Honor should focus your attention on the profile itself and the person profiled.  


answered by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (200k points)
The example of the Wagon Train. This is exactly how I use categories as well. When I need to quickly get to one specific profile I use the categories. Also handy for quick copy / paste of specific templates, such as presidential one's.
This is one of the best answers so far. Thank you for distinguishing categories from honors and suggesting a place in the narrative instead. I think a number of us have been trying to recommend the same thing but you've done so very concisely.
+4 votes

In it's simplest form, genealogy is the study of familial connections. It has nothing to do with the history of any individual, no matter what their accomplishments were/are.

Yet the majority of genealogists include those accomplishments, particularly the ones the historian finds personally interesting. Here on WikiTree the accomplishments are noted either in the biography section, as categories, or in both.

For the purpose of this conversation, we are asked if certain categories are "necessary", with the oft repeated statement that the unwanted categories are "not genealogy". Yet other categories are completely acceptable, even though by definition they are "not genealogy" either.

Dwight Eisenhower was a President of the United States, and is included in that and related categories. Being President is "not genealogy". It was a great accomplishment, but it had nothing to do with who he was related to, which "is genealogy". Being a recipient of The Order of the Queen of Sheba award is "not genealogy", and seemingly unpopular, so the category appears to be on the chopping block. So why isn't the Presidential category on the block as well?

Popularity. Not "genealogy".

I find this a slippery slope. WikiTree is supposed to be collaborative, not subject to the whims of popularity contests. The guidelines and rules should be applied equally, for categories this should mean that either we allow them et al, or we don't et al. WikiTree guidelines currently allow members to create categories as needed or desired, and the category project has the (unenviable) task of managing the structure and hierarchy of the category tree. Without a reason better than certain members disliking them I would hate to see arbitrary changes to these guidelines.

Have we gone overboard with categories?

Who gets to decide? WikiTree members as a whole, or certain more vocal members?

Based on what criteria? Usefulness? Popularity? Appearance? Who votes or gets to be heard on each of these?

Most importantly to me, is this a debate we even need to have? Why? "If it ain't broke . . ."

answered by John Beardsley G2G6 Mach 2 (29.2k points)
Well, John, having taken on a role within the categorization project, I feel an obligation to participate int he conversation.  Also, my own work on WikiTree constitutes an ongoing experiment to see which categories I personally find useful and which I don't.  

But I agree with you completely on the matter of excluding a kind of category.  The most obvious is zodiac, which by your criterion has the least "popularity" and the greatest universal recognition that it's useless.  But while we have taken steps to make categories in some topics more uniform, I don't believe we have "banned" a type of category -- yet.  So it is indeed a slippery slope.   If we start by banning the most obvious category to ban -- zodiac -- where will that lead us?  And do we want to go there?  

A profile's manager does retain some responsibility.  If you categorize a profile that I manage with a zodiac category, I will endeavor to remove it, hopefully, of course, after a polite and collaborative conversation!

Yes, astrology is rather useless, whether in genealogical terms or any other. Yet I like identifying as an Aquarius. Probably a carry-over from listening to the song growing up. I put the category on my own profile, but I wouldn't put it or any other zodiac on any other profiles. I wouldn't agree with removing the categories from WikiTree either . . . let those who do like them use them, and let the profile managers have the final say as per current guidelines. Pretty simple solution concerning a whimsical category collection.

Is the Order of the Queen of Sheba award category collection that whimsical? {shrug} Not to everyone I'll bet.

The important question IMHO is, for any category, do they do any harm? And not simply to some other member's ascetic taste, but real harm to the database. If not, then I ask again whether we even need to be having this debate? Can't we all just get along?

The Style Guide says, and this I think is especially important for the older or more 'famous' profiles/families, many people have to share or are very interested in : 

Since we collaborate on shared profiles we need to agree on how profiles should look. Otherwise personal preferences might conflict and lead to bitter disagreements. For example, the poet e.e. cummings might prefer that every word of his profile be written in lowercase letters. On his own profile, nobody needs to argue with him. However, profiles of his ancestors that are shared with other descendants need to use standard capitalization. See the Style FAQ for more information.

So this goes for adding categories or templates as well, we of course have thousands of members with probably just as many different views or opinions and I can understand and respect all of them, but ... if just deciding or discussing this for one president is this hard already... I guess it's perhaps time and important we have or think of  some sort of guideline or Style rule for the use of categories ?  

And yes I agree and think it's more and very important we all try to get along and have fun in what we all are working on :) 

Don't we already have that Bea? Don't the current guidelines and style rules leave the final decision about what is added and/or stays to the profile manager(s)? Why do we or would we require something additional for categories, or at least certain categories?

Because some profile manager(s) would allow zodiac categories on the profiles they manage while others would not? (just using zodiacs as an example, substitute in any other(s) as they come to mind) Do we then take away the "right" of those who have no objection in favor of those who do? Or vice versa, depending on popularity?

Ever walk or drive on black ice?

Just like you say John, it of course is fine to let the current profile managers have the final say as per current guidelines, but if the current guidelines are not really clear or confusing, which seems to be the case and is probably the reason for this question, perhaps it's time to make sure things are more clear ? 

If the guidelines for the categories are not clear for everyone it's of course not really helping to prevent ''bitter disagreements'' so to make sure we all can get along we probably can think of something to make things more clear... 

+9 votes

It appears to me that the underlying concern that led to this discussion thread is that WikiTree has not been effective in making people aware of and helping them understand the policy/guidance on the purposes and appropriate uses of categories, much less in ensuring that the guidance is applied consistently. Just as we aim for a single unified "Tree" that everyone collaborates on, to support that tree, WikiTree needs a single unified collection of categories that everyone can collaborate on. A laissez-faire approach that says "create and use any categories you want, as long as you don't put them on my relatives' profiles" isn't a good recipe for ensuring effective collaboration.

For those who may not have read it recently, the Category FAQ states:

What is the purpose of categories?

By grouping profiles of people that share something in common, categories can:

  • help members organize ongoing research,
  • help members with common interests find each other,
  • help members with a special interest find profiles they may want to investigate or collaborate on, and
  • help historians or genealogists researching a particular topic or location.

For example, if you were interested in a specific military unit, perhaps because a family member served in it, you want to see if there are other profiles of people on WikiTree who served in the unit. You may want to get in touch with the members who created those profiles and work together on further research. You might even want to start a project with them on the unit.

One point that may not be sufficiently emphasized in that passage and other parts of the guidance is that categories exist for grouping related profiles and pages, not for documenting a person's biography or a topic of genealogical/historical interest. It appears that some newer users may be mistakenly treating categories as a substitute for adding informational content to a profile page -- instead of stating in the profile that Uncle Arthur was a Boy Scout leader, they might look for a Boy Scout Leaders category to place him in, and not include the information in the profile text. Those users would benefit from clear guidance on profile-writing and the uses of categories. Also, there have been discussions in the past to the effect that the content on a category page should be limited (if there's a lot to say about a topic, one or more free-space pages should be created instead); those discussion deserve to be repeated.

Additionally, I think we need a shared understanding of what types of groupings are an appropriate basis for categories in WikiTree. Not everything that's interesting and is somehow related to genealogy makes a reasonable category. I might find it fascinating to collect the profiles of people who share my first name of "Ellen," but I submit that this is not a category that would broadly benefit WikiTree and its users. I also might be interested in documenting the teapot designs/styles that were represented in great aunt Millie's antique teapot collection by creating a category for each kind of teapot, but I submit that teapots are not an appropriate subject for WikiTree categories. I hope that we can agree on those two examples of subjects that shouldn't be a basis for categories, but it appears that we may need some discussion regarding signs of the zodiac and a number of other topics raised in this discussion.

answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (785k points)

But . . .but . . . occupations are "not genealogy".  ;-)

Slip slidin' away
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away


I forgot to add that your answer above is also one of the best so far in that you underscore the need to make sure we are training people accurately about the purpose of categories.
The possibility of a Category: Gandy Dancers illustrates another critical feature of categorization:  Categories are placed on profiles by volunteer WikiTree members pursuing their own interests with their own time.  If four of us encounter the profile of a Gandy Dancer, one may think, "Oh, this is fascinating, this deserves an occupational category, I wonder who else on WikiTree is a Gandy Dancer", but it is a sure thing that at least one other of the four will not even think of putting a category on the profile, and maybe another will think of it but think such categories shouldn't even exist.  The result is that whatever category you have, it's a sure thing that some but not all people who should be in it are in it.  If the value of Category: Gandy Dancers depends on having ALL the Gandy Dancers in WikiTree in it, that value will never be realized.  So the benefit of having a Category: Gandy Dancers lies pretty much solely in the benefit it provides to those who are fascinated by Gandy Dancers and willing to spend energy on them.  

The primary motivation people have for spending time on WikiTree is their own research and inclinations.  To the extent we develop systems that capture that energy and reward people for employing it, we've got something good going.  To the extent the systems we develop act as a drain on peoples' energy, we're wasting valuable time!
The Gandy Dancers category is completely empty and has no content on the category page. It used to be in the top-level Professions category, but I edited it so it is a subcategory of Railroad Workers, but is no longer also at top level.
Actually, I had no clue what a gandy dancer was.  I was thinking of a female performer with feathers.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandy_dancer...
And I mentioned it because I knew what this occupation was, it's a funny-sounding term that a person might find on a census record and be curious about, and I was aware of this category as an existing but unhelpful category.

"The primary motivation people have for spending time on WikiTree is their own research and inclinations.  To the extent we develop systems that capture that energy and reward people for employing it, we've got something good going.  To the extent the systems we develop act as a drain on peoples' energy, we're wasting valuable time!""

Excellent points Jack. I support the creation and use of categories by the WikiTree members at large within a structure managed by the Categorization project. Not everyone is going to find use in every or any one particular category, but they are not created with everyone in mind to begin with. The guidelines in place now work in the manner they were intended. No shared online tree the scope of WikiTree is going to be exactly to everyone's liking . . . that is what collaboration is for. We work to achieve the best fit, not the perfect fit.

We cannot do that by restricting the abilities of all members to only use the database in the manner that the most vocal of us feel it should be. We use guidelines, not commandments. We set structure, but allow that structure to be malleable and grow.

I haven't seen any category that I dislike to the extent that I would call for it to be banned (though I can think of some and hope never to see). I've seen many odd ones that I'll never use though. I see an entire class of categories in the process of being phased out of existence despite strong objections. I do not see too much power in the hands of the members, but I do see the overuse of powers by some groups.

Lets not reign in the creativity of the members, but rather the stifling influence of the groups. 

Ellen, the empty Gandy Dancers category brings up a related but separate topic -- the creation of topics FOR OTHER PEOPLE to use.  That's not quite the same thing as commanding Ellen to categorize profiles as to the kind of pet the person has, but creating Category: Pets and then subcategorizing it by Category: Cats, Dogs, Mynahs, Gerbils, etc -- and then leaving all the categories empty because you're expecting somebody else to use them -- is a waste of one's own time and that of others.

There are certain defined groups where advance creation makes sense -- there's a lot of interest in categorizing by state, so at the outset, sure, create all 50 state categories.  And even all the County categories.  But I would certainly discourage the use of time, as has happened with Professions, where an immense number of profession categories -- like Category: Gandy Dancers -- were created, most of them unpopulated.


But . . .but . . . occupations are "not genealogy".  ;-)

Given the right place and the right time certain occupations are absolutely pertinent to and helpful for genealogy. For my main area of interest, 17th and 18th century Bohemia, certain professions ran in families, two from my own relations come to mind without having to go back to my records: millers and cantors. Looking for records for people in these professions helped trace the movements of family members throughout the region which would otherwise have been nearly impossible to do.

You don't have to sell me on that Helmut, I'm in complete agreement with you.   :-)

I was just attempting to show a bit of levity during this debate, I found it kind of funny that some of my points were being made by others who have been on the opposing side.

+2 votes
Is a part of the problem that the categories appear at the top? Would it be as much of an issue if categories were at the bottom  or linked throughout the text?
answered by A. C. Raper G2G6 Mach 3 (31.1k points)
For me it's not the location, it's using categories as a substitution for biographical documentation. That's not what categories are about. That and proliferation of divisions of sub-categories, such that they are too specific. These two things are related.

And honestly, it's really hard to write up guidelines or rules about this, because decomposition like this is pretty much an art form. Not that it shouldn't be attempted, or done. But as I'm writing this, I see similarities in breaking down work to be done in Project Management, in business. How far should one decompose? Not enough and it's too hard to manage and is still vague. Too much and it seems absurd. Both ends of the spectrum don't provide enough value. How should one find the right level?

My two cents for the moment.

Speaking of the misuse of categories as a substitute for biographical documentation, I just ran across a profile that has no biography, has a list of 7 sources, and is included in 6 categories: Gemini | This Day In History May 29 | This Day In History May 01 | Moultonborough, New Hampshire | Randolph, Vermont | Parkinson's Disease.

+3 votes
Hi guys,

We started a thread about the placement of categories on a profile if you want to weigh in and vote.

It's here: https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/323559/should-categories-positioned-somewhere-different-profile

answered by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+2 votes
You should be able to assign a profile to an unlimited number of categories. But you shouldn't have to SEE them unless you want to. The solution would be to just show a categories link which, if clicked, would expand (or open up a window) to let you see all the categories that the profile has been assigned to.
answered by Chase Ashley G2G6 Mach 7 (79.6k points)
Show the first three, then a "more..." link?
+4 votes

This discussion is of timely interest to me. As a fellow who has been a "casual" member of WikiTree for some time and now trying to sink my teeth into it in a purposeful way, I thought I'd share my POV. I think it is understood that WikiTree in general, and Categorization in particular, can be dauntingly confusing to the new person. To me, the principal point of Categorization is to ORGANIZE. The point of the Eisenhower discussion is the use of Categorization to RECOGNIZE. I think an underlying reason for the proliferation of Categorization is the need for FINDING. The search functions of WikiTree seem limited.

In G2G, there is an open search box, but not very robust. For example, I do a search for "Medal of Honor" (without the quotes) I get some references specifically to "Medal of Honor" and many to "Roll of Honor". If I do the search WITH the quotes, I would expect the string to be found, but there is no difference.

Among the profiles, one can search for a first and last name, then some sorting and filtering but not much for non-name factors. While there are means to search specific surnames or variations of surnames, I discovered that I get a lot of irrelevant variations but miss some of the most important variations. I raised that issue HERE.

One thing that's confusing to me about Categorization is that I tend to think of a vertical structure of categories. Here, there is a lot of horizontal linking of categories. That is undoubtedly a more organic way of functioning and I would consider that a good thing. However, it can be difficult to navigate (again, from a newbie perspective) especially when we have not yet arrived at a consensus of what is "too much".

Having read the discussion, I've come to the conclusion that the Categorization system is "too much" and should be reined in somehow. But I say that with respect and humility that I'm too new to make it a proclamation. In my own organizational work, I think I will make restrained use of categories and more use of "space" pages.

But then I may change my mind after I learn more. ;)

answered by Douglas Beezley G2G6 Mach 1 (18k points)

A hint for Douglas and other people who want to do advanced searches on WikiTree:

Enter your search on a standard Google search page and include site=wikitree.com as a search parameter.

I have tried that. I just started looking at creating a custom search engine for WikiTree. I actually named one for WikiTree but haven't figured out the details. I believe this would be something that could be made part of the WikiTree website. But then, I'm no expert.

WikiTree has two Google custom search engines already (at least there are two that I know of). One's at the bottom of the search page; it searches for any text. The other is a category search engine at https://www.google.com/cse/publicurl?cx=003048598688029858478:aemrovxydzo (and linked from the upper right corner of category pages). It's when those two don't give me desired results that I go to Google to create my own search.
Well, how about that. Seemed like too good a thing to be an original thought of mine. Just take folks to point the way. Thanks, Ellen.

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