denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_biz2013-01-09 02:44 pm

[RFC] Country list for specifying location

So, one of the things people bring up to us sometimes is that our country list -- used, for example, for setting your Location on the Edit Profile page -- is out of date. Which is absolutely true, and we admit it freely: the list is, more-or-less, the initial list of countries from 1998 when [ profile] brad was creating LiveJournal, tweaked only slightly. There have been times in the intervening 15 years (oh God, it has been 15 years) whenever people reported countries having been created, renamed, or merged with others, but the updates were haphazard. Adding to the problem is the fact that national and geopolitical identity is often contentious, and is extremely personal. We don't want to step on anyone's toes.

It's well past time we figure something out, though, and right now, the best solution (though still far from being perfect) we can come up with is to use the list of United Nations member states plus permanent UN observers as the most definitive source. We thought we'd kick that out to y'all and see if anybody would be negatively effected by doing it that way, though.

(Not that I think I need to say this since y'all are generally awesome, but: when weighing in on this discussion, please be respectful of other commenters; national and geopolitical identity is, as I said, an often-contentious and extremely personal topic.)
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[personal profile] arethinn 2013-01-09 08:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Yesterday's Windows 7 updates included one that purported to update Windows' country list (what Windows functions use it, I am not sure, but apparently there is one) to include South Sudan. What source do you suppose they use?
Edited 2013-01-09 20:01 (UTC)

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silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)

[personal profile] silveradept 2013-01-09 08:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Is there a way to resolve conflicts of name? F'rex, someone living in Burma/Myanmar or Taiwan/Chinese Taipei, where the name used may indicate a political preference or ideological identification that could prove...contentious.

If only one name can be used per country code, will it be the designation used in the UN list, assuming the country in question has reached at least observer status?

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[personal profile] spockette 2013-01-09 08:53 pm (UTC)(link)
This is tricky, because what you consider the country you live in is often all tied up in national identity.

The problem I can see is that this would remove Scotland from the list, meaning people in Scotland would have to choose "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Whilst Scotland is one of the constituent countries of the UK, a lot of people here consider themselves to be Scottish, not British (polling data for the past 10 years is here, showing that, for the years with data, somewhere between 72 - 80% identify as Scottish, not British).

Especially now, with the SNP (pro-independence party) holding a majority government, and an independence referendum scheduled for next year, the issues of Scottish vs. UK identity is an incredibly contentious issue, and I am concerned that removing the location 'Scotland' and replacing it with 'United Kingdom' is kind of like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire.
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[personal profile] sorchasilver 2013-01-09 09:13 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree.

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claire_chan: Socrates (Socrates)

[personal profile] claire_chan 2013-01-09 10:41 pm (UTC)(link)
The United Nations is not a complete list of everywhere.

I don't know how to comment in a way which doesn't advocate lots of work for the lovely DW admins :/

Would "country codes" - like, not a precise name for each nation-state since that might exclude those not officially recognised by the UN - "country codes" meaning brief indications of approximately where on the planet each user comes from - be too contentious? This is probably a bad idea, but I am loath to baleet it.

When musing, I just thought of maybe denoting longitude and latitude! I am currently reading Jules Verne's book about the explorations of Africa between x and y latitudes...
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

[personal profile] pne 2013-01-09 10:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Would "country codes" - like, not a precise name for each nation-state since that might exclude those not officially recognised by the UN - "country codes" meaning brief indications of approximately where on the planet each user comes from - be too contentious?

Where would that list of country codes come from?

Or to put it differently: who would get to decide what's in the list and what's not? Brad? Denise? The UN? ISO? The DW community as a whole?

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pauamma: Cartooney crab holding drink (Default)

[personal profile] pauamma 2013-01-09 11:02 pm (UTC)(link)
One solution would be to use the IANA toplevel domains instead/in addition. This would have the advantage of consistency with the email address checker. Someone mentioned Taiwan in a comment above. Users need the ability to enter addresses when they register, and it doesn't really make sense to me to have Taiwan in one list and not the other.
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[personal profile] msilverstar 2013-01-09 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
There's a lot to be said for that option.

It does bring up the issue of internationalized country codes, hope DW is handling those properly.

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[personal profile] cheyinka 2013-01-10 01:12 am (UTC)(link)
I like this idea because it seems a little less personal than "naming my home country", and thus while it might still raise identity issues it couldn't (or couldn't as readily) be construed as "Dreamwidth is saying my county doesn't exist".
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[personal profile] mdlbear 2013-01-10 05:17 am (UTC)(link)
I really like this idea.
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[personal profile] kindkit 2013-01-09 11:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Why not just have a text field? That way people can enter whatever seems most appropriate to them. It's an optional field anyway, and it's not like DW is using the information to target ads or something, so I see no reason why people's selections should be pre-determined. Yes, some people will write in frivolous things, but so what? (You could also give people the choice of selecting a country from the UN list or writing in their own text.)
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[personal profile] ilyena_sylph 2013-01-09 11:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I like this option!
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[personal profile] automaticdoor 2013-01-09 11:11 pm (UTC)(link)
My thoughts exactly. I especially like your last idea. List + text field.

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[personal profile] superluminal 2013-01-10 12:09 am (UTC)(link)
ISO 3166-1 would provide a superset of the proposed list (249 countries vs. 195): it includes member states, members of UN agencies, and country and region codes defined by the UN statistics division. It therefore includes not only member and observer states, but also countries like Taiwan. And there is a mechanism for user-assigned codes which could be used for places like Scotland or Catalonia, where some users may identify with a nationality that isn't officially involved in international politics.

[personal profile] alexbayleaf 2013-01-10 01:08 am (UTC)(link)
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that you make it a text field.

What is it used for? Just for finding people near you? If so, how widely used is that feature?

If you don't much care about "people near you", then you can let users put whatever they like. Some will put "Hogwarts", of course, but so what? One option, though, could be that if someone puts something which isn't yet in the database, then suggest other options within a short edit distance of what they typed. Eg, I type "Austraila" (not typo) and it says, "Did you really mean Austraila, or were you thinking of a) Australia, b) Austria?" This will at least cluster popular locations and let you find other people in that location, tag-style.

If you care about "people near you", you could do geolocation. Let them type what they want, and you then use a Geo API (eg. Google Maps) to locate it on a map and say, "Is this where you meant?" If so, save their lat/long along with the text string they entered. This means that people with privacy concerns can say "Australia" and show an approximate location, while those who don't mind giving more information can say "Thornbury, Victoria, Australia" and give more.

"People near you" could be done using geo-coords, eg. "people within 100km" or whatever. There are libraries for this, if you have their lat/long.

(We're probably going to use the second of these options, i.e. text field entry, geolocation, and storing the lat/long, for Growstuff.)
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[personal profile] kyrielle 2013-01-10 03:27 am (UTC)(link)
Except that some people, while very willing to share their country, are in no way willing to share their actual lat/long. It's *too* precise to feel secure.

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[personal profile] nafs 2013-01-10 01:17 am (UTC)(link)
I'm not familiar with either the UN list or the ISO list but I do have a question - what would happen when a country dissolves, or when this new list is adopted, and the list of country names no longer includes a country that a DW user has listed as their country?

Maybe it's a lot of work but I don't know why the idea that the existing list can't be added to by any DW user who submits a support request indicating what country they identify as coming from is somehow less authoritative than somebody at the UN deciding what's a country. The factors for saying no would be "This is not spelled correctly" and "this country was created by an author". If anyone has a problem with a specific country name being on the list the answer can simply be "there is at least one DW user who identifies as from this country and we respect their right to say so".

(FTR I'm Canadian but 95% of my relatives would throw a bloody fit if you told them they had to identify as coming from the UK instead of from Scotland. I also used to work at the UoT Slavic Languages and Literatures department where "what country are you from" was not exactly a minor issue. Let me tell you the ranting that would go on regarding what they force Macedonia to identify as in the parade of nations at the Olympics was not pretty and that was the most minor of the issues.)
Edited 2013-01-10 01:24 (UTC)
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[personal profile] dhobikikutti 2013-01-10 06:03 am (UTC)(link)
I strongly feel that users need to be able to name the country they identify as from the way they want to. So a solution should put that as the priority, not who the arbitrators are. Since it is easier to ask Dreamwidth to change a list if something is missing, rather than the U.N., why not populate your initial list from a source like the U.N., but say you will edit it for whatever people need added. Scotland and Taiwan should certainly be on any extant list.
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[personal profile] wenchpixie 2013-01-10 11:45 am (UTC)(link)
I suspect I'm not adding anything to this conversation, but certainly I would have quite disenfranchised feelings on the subject if I was required to change my country from Scotland to the U.K. (we're often belittled by our country-mates south of the border and this would just be one more instance of being told that our feeling are silly and don't matter, frankly).

I'm aware that a standardised list is both required for ease of searching and is problematical because there isn't a non-contentious list that exists, but I see that a combination of both a list and an "other" field with a text option has been suggested - are there reasons why that wouldn't work? (Better, I think to allow people to pretend to be from Hogwarts than to exclude people from identifying from being from contentiously recognised actual places).
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[personal profile] ninetydegrees 2013-01-10 01:22 pm (UTC)(link)
I think both a list and a text field is a good compromise. The label already says 'location', not country, so having a text field next to the menu would make it clear that you're aware that the predefined list doesn't cover everything, and would make sense there. It would also let people whose country is in the list but who doesn't live in a 'state' or a 'city' add what's correct for them.

Add a "why isn't my location in the 'location' drop-down menu" FAQ and I think you'd have done the best you could.
Edited 2013-01-10 13:26 (UTC)
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[personal profile] noracharles 2013-01-11 04:59 pm (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] vlion 2013-01-11 02:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I was chatting with a guy about Ukrainian history today. Now, there's an area that's had some shuffling over the last 600 years. Certain names are *very* political.

Perhaps have a "geo" locator, e.g., a drop-down specifying physical location (say, North America), and a text field for country, then another one for province[1].

That way you can both specify your location (for people who care) and your enfranchisement of choice.

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[personal profile] pne 2013-01-11 03:01 pm (UTC)(link)
a drop-down specifying physical location (say, North America)

This runs into much the same problems: there's no one single, standard, universal list of physical locations.

Is Israel in Asia? Middle East? EMEA? Some other geographical grouping?

Is Turkey in Europe? Asia? Both? Neither?

Is Mexico in North America? (According to Wikipedia, it's in North America but not in Northern America. And it's in Middle America but not in Central America.)

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[personal profile] kate_nepveu 2013-01-11 07:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I would rather the location field be like tag autocomplete--here are some options, but put your own in and that's fine. Add a note saying that this field is used for searches so it's helpful to make sure your spelling is correct and you're done. Anything else is unnecessarily complicated for DW and potentially hurtful for users.
Edited 2013-01-11 19:44 (UTC)
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[personal profile] ephemera 2013-01-14 09:38 pm (UTC)(link)
what do the country codes get used for? Could broader "region" codes do the practical stuff, and allow you to make country a user-defined free text?