Place naming conventions: ascending vs. descending order

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In naming places, should we use ascending or descending order?

Poll ended at Sat Apr 05, 2008 4:08 pm

Ascending (Montgomery County, Maryland)
11
69%
Descending (Maryland, Montgomery County)
5
31%
 
Total votes: 16

ritcheymt-p40
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Place naming conventions: ascending vs. descending order

Postby ritcheymt-p40 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 4:05 pm

Users are not unanimous on their desire for ascending or descending order in the naming of places. Two ways to name a place are these:
  1. Montgomery County, Maryland [this is ascending order]
  2. Maryland, Montgomery County [this is descending order]
I'll make a case for using option 1, ascending order. Feel free to respond to this post to make a case for descending order.

Ascending order makes sense for two reasons. First, people are used to thinking of localities that way because that's the way we write postal addresses. It's also the way we enter place names for our ancestors' records in family history software.

The second reason ascending order makes sense is that it fits nicely with the way the system's search engine works, whereas descending order would basically SPAM the search engine. If there is a page named "Cook County, Illinois" and a page named "Illinois," and the user searches on the term "Illinois," all the articles whose titles begin with "Illinois" are listed first in search results and the article which begins with "Cook County, Illinois" is listed later.

The search results would look something like this:

Illinois
Illinois Adoption Records
Illinois Archives and Libraries
Illinois Cemetery Records
Illinois Census Records
Illinois Land Records
Illinois Probate Records
Illinois Tax Records
Cook County, Illinois
Cook County, Illinois Archives and Libraries
Cook County, Illinois Cemetery Records
Cook County, Illinois Census Records
...etc.

This prevents the user from getting a lot of Cook County "noise" mixed in with the search results he wanted -- the stuff relating to the state of Illinois.

If descending order is used in place names -- if the Cook County page is named "Illinois, Cook County," the search results page will have it mixed in with all the articles that begin with the term "Illinois." If the user were to search on "Illinois" the results would look like this:

Illinois
Illinois, Cook County
Illinois, Cook County Archives and Libraries
Illinois, Cook County Cemetery Records
Illinois, Cook County Census Records
Illinois Adoption Records
Illinois Archives and Libraries
Illinois Cemetery Records
Illinois Census Records
Illinois Land Records
Illinois Probate Records
Illinois Tax Records

This list doesn't look too painful until you realize that Cook Co. probably has at least 20 record types -- and so does every other county in Illinois. So where you see all the Cook Co. entries above, imagine over 100, and you'll see where this is going.

jbh001
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Postby jbh001 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 5:19 pm

ritcheymt wrote:Ascending order makes sense for two reasons. First, people are used to thinking of localities that way because that's the way we write postal addresses. It's also the way we enter place names for our ancestors' records in family history software.
This is because a U.S./Euro-centric custom has been imposed without realizing that it is U.S./Euro-centric. In other places in the world postal addresses are written in descending order

For example:
[font=Verdana][font=Courier New]Russia, Moskow
123 Lenin Street
Apartment 5
Doe, John


We fill out Family History records this way for the same reason. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: we define our forms, and eventually they define us.

Decending order seems most logical to me visually. Search engine problems are the perview of the programmer, the logic can always be tweaked because computers only do what you tell them to do.
[/font][/font]

jbh001
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Postby jbh001 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 5:24 pm

ritcheymt wrote:This list doesn't look too painful until you realize that Cook Co. probably has at least 20 record types -- and so does every other county in Illinois. So where you see all the Cook Co. entries above, imagine over 100, and you'll see where this is going.
Unless your sample wa inaccurate, this could simply be fixed by standardizing the coding so that spaces get sorted before commas, then you get:

Illinois
Illinois Adoption Records
Illinois Archives and Libraries
.
.
.
Illinois, Cook County
Illinois, Cook County Archives and Libraries
Illinois, Cook County Cemetery Records
.
.
.

. . . instead of the version you posted as a sample.

Thomas_Lerman
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Postby Thomas_Lerman » Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:01 pm

Personally, I am opposed to putting the "County" word, etc. in there. My understanding is that the newest standard for entering place names is not to put in that or other descriptions (such as "City", "Township", etc.) unless it is part of the name. If we start putting it in here, I feel like we are setting the wrong example.

I agree with ritcheymt statement about being in the same order as what is entered in the user's database (with the above change). However, with what jbh001 has said and looking at the FHLC, I understand that statement. We just have two different standards and which one to follow?

The examples posted are similar to:
Illinois Archives and Libraries
Illinois, Cook County Archives and Libraries

If we look at the FHLC again, we see a different standard. I actually like this better because of the distinct separation between the place and the topic:
Illinois - Archives and Libraries
Illinois, Cook County - Archives and Libraries

I am trying to think of an example where the hyphen would add clarity . . . how about the following?
Illinois County Archives and Libraries
versus
Illinois - County Archives and Libraries

jbh001
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Postby jbh001 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:18 pm

Thomas_Lerman wrote:If we look at the FHLC again, we see a different standard. I actually like this better because of the distinct separation between the place and the topic:
Illinois - Archives and Libraries
Illinois, Cook County - Archives and Libraries
To me, this is the best example of those yet presented.

Thomas_Lerman
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Postby Thomas_Lerman » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:50 pm

Thank you.

By the way, using the examples I posted did not necessarily mean that I support the ascending or descending format. The jury is still out on that for me. I definitely am against the "County" as I previously mentioned.

JBParker-p40
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Postby JBParker-p40 » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:02 am

I'm going to take a position for the "common" user of our Research Wiki. If it is true that a high number of people in North America have an interest in genealogy, and if a large majority of them have limited experience with genealogy, it would seem to me that we should be writing things primarily for that audience. That would cause me to lean toward naming pages, etc. as the "common" person speaks a locality. You don't hear a person say "I'm going to Illinois, Ogle County to look up records." They say or think, " I want to know more about "Ogle County, Illinois records." I believe that is the intuitive way the general public in North America thinks.

If that causes problems for the "engineers," I would think that is an easy fix with modern computer technology.

As far as the non-North American user is concerned, isn't it possible to use the naming convention used in a particular country, for that country, and use another convention for a different country?

As long as I've been in this field, I've felt that we try to force the general public and even the more experienced researchers into "Our" way of thinking and doing things, to make it easy for us. At least, I know that has been the case in the past. I think we are doing a dis-service to the public by forcing technical standards on the beginners when we could easily use re-directs, etc. to get around the problem.

Are we designing the Wiki for the techno-savvy, experienced researcher types? Or are we designing it so anyone with any amount of knowledge about a locality can add information and/or use it without having to worry about getting every comma, dash, etc. in the proper place?

Thomas_Lerman
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Postby Thomas_Lerman » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:37 am

I believe we are all trying to come up with the best solution that would work and be the clearest for the global community. While North America may (I do not really know) have the most amount of people interested in genealogy / family history, I do not think we should necessarily force everything into that format just because of the numbers. My feeling is that it should be done in a manner that is the most understandable to the greatest audience around the globe. I believe that a dash or comma can make a huge difference in that understanding.

ForbesMM
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Postby ForbesMM » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:39 am

I'm with Jimmy on this one :D

ritcheymt-p40
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Postby ritcheymt-p40 » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:52 am

JBParker wrote:As far as the non-North American user is concerned, isn't it possible to use the naming convention used in a particular country, for that country, and use another convention for a different country?


Love it. You are so right. In this field, we design product after product based on United States standards. Wacky.


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