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I've noticed a disturbing (to me) trend of people based in Ukraine searching the travel site for anyone who asks a question about Kiev, who upon encountering such questions perform an edit to change the spelling from Kiev to Kyiv. They also make other nonsense edits to reach the minimum edit length requirement. Here is an example: https://travel.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/82762 - in this particular example, the nefarious intent is clear where an edit to change Kiev to Kyiv is described as a 'spelling mistake'.

As people are probably aware, English is not a standardised language. Many people will be unfamiliar with 'Kyiv' with that spelling, and there is a real risk that these edits will make the Travel website less helpful to an English-speaking audience - potentially also leading to duplicate questions.

I imagine there should be a policy where edits to place names should be made in an 'additive' manner - for example, people could add "(Kyiv)" or "(Kiev)" after the original spelling. This would be a compromise to allow people to identify the place with either spelling, and would also satisfy people with political motives who want to promote their preferred spelling.

This seems to be a trend with other places - for example, on meta there is a question about Uluru/Ayers Rock. We should call it "Uluru" but let people find it when they search for "Ayers Rock"

So, my overall question - is there a uniform policy for how to handle edits to place names, that avoids heated political arguing?

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    Sorry @fabspro, you are accusing people of exactly what you did yourself: Revision #4 was aimed solely to vandalize the spelling of Kyiv and, since the system would not accept such small edit, you've swapped several words in the question's title. – bytebuster Jun 7 '18 at 13:09
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    There are several discussions here on Meta (one, two) about spelling toponyms, and the users (including myself) who are concerned about the problem and who raised these discussions did not even think to go immediately edit posts without reaching a consensus among the site users. That's the policy, and that's how to do that in a civilized manner. – bytebuster Jun 7 '18 at 13:11
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    Stop right there @bytebuster. I am genuinely trying to discuss the general issue. But to humour you, I will note that you've identified two discussions on meta that support the spelling 'Kiev' but you are then saying that using this spelling is vandalism. The question you have linked to that was edited has indeed been edited from the original spelling, to Kyiv, to Kiev, and back to Kyiv. This affirms that there is a need to have a sensible way to handle this type of scenario specifically, when people make edits. – fabspro Jun 7 '18 at 13:22
  • Keep in mind that this meta question is specifically about edits to place names, not tags. – fabspro Jun 7 '18 at 13:22
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    One last thing @bytebuster. I think you are cherry picking from the edit history of that question. I just had a look, and here is how it appears to have gone: Original question used "Kiev", then a Ukranian user edited it to Kyiv and made a one word edit. Then I changed it back to Kiev (as per consensus in travel meta) and improved the grammar in the question. Then a Ukranian made edits to change it back to Kyiv. Then another person changed it back to Kiev. Then you changed it back to Kyiv and also introduced poor/unintelligible grammar into the title. Ask yourself who has been constructive. – fabspro Jun 7 '18 at 13:26
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    I wouldn't call changing the spelling of a city "nefarious" ... the guy on meta has valid points IMO, even though the decision had been made to stick with Wikipedia. – Azor Ahai Jun 15 '18 at 23:32
  • Well, make your case @AzorAhai. In my view, it was nefarious because initially it opposed the previously stated policy of sticking to wikipedia, and further he justified his edits by using a random UN website that explicitly states that the names are not endorsed or official... and the same website itself used both spellings. The attempt to mislead people is what made it so nefarious for me. – fabspro Jun 15 '18 at 23:42
  • I mean, there's obviously an issue with this user spamming edits and further making useless edits to hit the minimum. But that's a separate issue from changing "Kiev" to "Kyiv," which I think is a little excessive to call it "nefarious." Anyway, there's an answer from a mod and I don't have that much skin in the game. – Azor Ahai Jun 15 '18 at 23:45
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You as a user don't need to do anything except flagging the post for moderator attention. Don't engage in edit wars and don't post any comments on the subject under the post. If necessary you can also engage the user in question in (friendly) conversation in chat over the issue.

Let's make Travel.SE a friendly place and avoid bickering over such minute details of English spelling :-)

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    I like this sentiment. :) – fabspro Jun 7 '18 at 23:34
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Perhaps we could just agree that we will prefer Kiev/Kyiv instead of either separately, if there is some sort of clear respect issue that some of our users are facing if we use one to the exclusion of the other.

Another less common example would be Derry/Londonderry. "Derry" seems more politically tolerable with time, but we're in the business of informing people, not offending people. If we can avoid offense by using both usages in our material, it seems an easy workaround. As a bonus, in the case of Kiev/Kyiv, searches will then automatically pick up all content using either spelling.

  • As per multiple other threads, we try to go by the Wiki usage across the network :/ – Mark Mayo Jun 15 '18 at 0:31
  • @MarkMayo If we see this sort of behaviour increasing, we may have to rethink it. – Jim MacKenzie Jun 15 '18 at 2:58
  • What is the Derry/Londonderry thing? – Azor Ahai Jun 15 '18 at 23:29
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    @AzorAhai It's a city in Northern Ireland. At one point in its history, it received aid from the city of London and was renamed from Derry to Londonderry. Northern Irish Catholics prefer to call it Derry; Northern Irish Protestants prefer to call it Londonderry. From what I understand it's a bit of a touchy subject if you call it the wrong thing to the wrong person, enough that in many publications it's called "Derry/Londonderry". – Jim MacKenzie Jun 16 '18 at 5:23
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To avoid discussion, I propose that the main spelling used is identical with the Oxford Dictionary. Reason:

  • The Oxford Dictionary is standardized and can be hardly accused to be a propaganda tool.
  • It is not editable. I want to avoid that someone vandalizes editable content in e.g. Wikipedia because (s)he does want a political renaming at all costs.

Now to the implementation. Here I propose:

  • If a variant is explicitly mentioned, both are valid and acceptable and do not need to be replaced. Example: Beijing or Peking.
  • If a variant is mentioned in the text or if it is a local name (for e.g. travel signs at roads), it can be mentioned as proposed. Example: Kiev (Kyiv, Київ) or Cologne (Köln) / Warsaw (Warszawa).

To avoid a political quarrel, the second kind of variant is definitely allowed to be mentioned: one time when it occurs the first time. So if Ukrainians want their Kyiv, they get it the first time.

  • Hmm, any criticism about that? Is it meant that the proposal is unnecessary or is the solution not liked? – Thorsten S. Jun 11 '18 at 0:04
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    Didn't downvote, but we've long stuck with copying the Wikipedia entry, and their official stance is Kiev. means we avoid politics and just follow the guide of the largest encyclopedia in the world. – Mark Mayo Jun 11 '18 at 9:08
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    @ThorstenS. There is no single Oxford dictionary, and the only Oxford reference with universal acceptance is the Oxford English Dictionary, a historical dictionary used mainly by academics and not a geographic gazeteer, and furthermore one which is not freely accessible to the public. Indeed, Oxford spelling and the Oxford comma are rather controversial. There simply are no universally recognized authorities on placenames in English, which is why Wikipedia was chosen for tag names. – choster Jun 11 '18 at 21:10
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    @MarkMayo You know that I would like to avoid refering to something which can be edited, so that some smart alec change the Wikipedia page to get "his" spelling through? It may only work for smaller cities, but it even could be troubling for bigger cities if the change is political motivated, as the example Kiev-Kyiv shows. – Thorsten S. Jun 11 '18 at 21:54
  • @choster The Oxford comma has nothing to do with the dictionary. – David Richerby Jun 18 '18 at 19:56

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