Wikivoyage:Geographical hierarchy

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Geography is one way of looking at travel (there are other ways of seeing travel). The geographical hierarchy is the way we arrange Wikivoyage articles according to their geography – what areas they contain, and what area they are contained within. Each level of the geographical hierarchy has an article of its own.

Purpose[edit]

The point of the hierarchy is not to nitpick about geographical niceties, but to organize our work. What do we write Wikivoyage articles about? What are the subjects of our discussions? What kind of article do I write about topic X? A hierarchy of geographical units allows us to use them to identify things we write about, and thus how we write about them.

For example, consider Catalonia. By understanding the hierarchy, a contributor can know that Catalonia is a region. From there, they can figure out that the article about Catalonia should start with the region article template; that it should contain links to cities in Catalonia like Barcelona; and that there should be a link to the Catalonia article from its containing country, Spain. They also know what not to put in – that information about money should go up at the country level, and that listings for individual restaurants and hotels should go down at the city level.

By having a hierarchy, we don't have to figure out this stuff over and over again for every region in the world. Sure, there will be exceptions for every place, but by having rough guidelines, we can have a framework to make those exceptions against.

These levels of hierarchy aren't hard and fast, and they're open to revision. But it makes sense for articles at a given level of hierarchy to have links to the next level down in the hierarchy, and for articles at the same level of hierarchy to be about the same.

Given that changes to the regional hierarchy often have a wide-ranging impact, it can be helpful to mention and discuss the proposed changes on the talk page of the appropriate region.

The hierarchy[edit]

The Wikivoyage geographical hierarchy goes like this:

Levels in the hierarchy can be skipped if they don't make sense. For example, the country of Andorra is only a few square miles in size; it would be laughable to write articles about its different regions.

Continents[edit]

Continents are big sections of the globe. We've started with Asia, Africa, North America, etc., and a separate pseudo-continent of Island nations. There's not actually much practical travel information that can be given on, say, Asia, but it does provide a convenient container for the next level of hierarchy.

See also: Wikivoyage:Continent article template

Continental sections[edit]

A section is a division of a continent into a logical travel part. Classic examples are Southeast Asia or Scandinavia. Sometimes sections may not make sense, or may be equivalent to national boundaries. For example, it's natural to divide North America into Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America.

Countries[edit]

A country is a sovereign state territory on the globe, like Djibouti, France, or Brazil. Countries tend to be the level where information about currency, immigration, language, and culture are described. This level cannot be skipped.

Some countries like Monaco or Singapore are so small that they can be considered single cities. In these cases, omit headings like "Cities" and "Other destinations" and add city-level headings like "Get out"; if such an article grows large enough, divide it into city districts.

See also: Wikivoyage:Country article template

Regions[edit]

A region is a subnational division that is climatically, culturally, geographically, or politically coherent. Regions may lie along subnational borders—like states in the U.S., provinces in Canada, or departments in France—but more often they are above this level. One could divide Vietnam, for example, into the North (Hanoi and environs), the Central Coast (Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang), the Central Highlands (Dalat and nearby) and the South (Saigon and the Mekong Delta).

Importantly, we only add a level of regions when there are too many cities or too much content in the existing breakdown. As a result, the regional hierarchy at Wikivoyage doesn't always follow the official breakdown — and frequently is much "flatter" than the official political/administrative breakdown.

It's not impossible for regions to cross national borders—the Himalayas is a good example—but the idea is to have travel divisions below the nation level. Also, bodies of water are usually not considered regions, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

For large countries, regions can and should contain other regions, to make it easier to grasp. For example, the United States has 50 legal divisions – more, if you count territories like the District of Columbia or Guam – which is probably too many bits for people to grasp all at once. We've divided the U.S. into 10–12 regions, each of which in turn contains one or more of the American states (which are themselves divided into regions). It may be reasonable to do this in other countries, although (as noted above) it's not always necessary to divide our regions along political boundaries.

See also: Wikivoyage:Region article template, Wikivoyage:Bodies of water

Cities[edit]

A city is, in reality, the unit of travel guide geography. It's where you arrive to, where you go see sights, where you find a hotel, where you eat in restaurants, where you move on from when you're done. Wikivoyage's definition of a "city" is flexible: they may be literal incorporated cities, but they can also be larger metropolitan areas with suburbs and satellite cities, like Los Angeles or Paris, or they can be smaller towns or villages, like Zermatt or Panmunjeom. Occasionally a city-level destination article will cover a large rural area, serving as a container for multiple tiny villages, parks or islands. Whether particular suburbs, satellite cities, and villages deserve their own Wikivoyage entries is a matter of judgement – probably depending on the amount of information about those places. We have different templates to deal with cities of different sizes and complexity.

Most information in Wikivoyage will be about specific cities – the practical dollars-and-addresses info. See What is an article? for help in drawing the line between cities and attractions in cities, as well as dealing with non-settlement destinations like national parks.

See also: Wikivoyage:Small city article template, Wikivoyage:Big city article template, Wikivoyage:Huge city article template

Districts[edit]

Some cities are so big and diverse that there's too much information for one Wikivoyage article. It would make sense, then, to divide the city again into districts, so that practical info – hotel listings, restaurants, bars, sightseeing attractions – can get their due. Examples of districts in San Francisco would be San Francisco/Golden Gate, San Francisco/Tenderloin, and San Francisco/Mission.

Whether to break a city into districts is only a matter of content, not so much the city's physical size. Lubbock is a big city geographically, but it just doesn't have enough stuff to write about to justify classifying it as a "huge" city and breaking it down into district articles.

See also: Wikivoyage:District article template

Other divisions[edit]

Many attractions, restaurants, and retreats do not fit neatly into the categories listed above. In particular, large rural areas (e.g., Rural Montgomery County or Western Barbados), in which individual towns do not merit their own articles—which would lead to an excess of articles, and content spread across too many separate pages—can benefit from having their own articles. Other divisions are essentially deliberate agglomerations of areas that don't fit into our city articles. Choose names for this section that best represent their nature: "regions" (note that this term in this case does not correspond to the region articles described above, which contain other articles); "rural areas," which obviously suit rural areas well; or "other areas" for cases that are not so neat. If helpful, you may think of other divisions as "bottom level regions," in which listings are allowed.

Examples[edit]

Here's an example of the hierarchical levels described above:

  • Asia <continent>
  • Africa <continent>
  • Europe <continent>
  • North America <continent>
    • Canada <country>
    • Mexico <country>
    • United States of America <country>
      • New England <region>
      • Midwest <region>
      • California <region>
        • Sacramento Valley <region>
        • Sierra Nevada <region>
        • Bay Area <region>
          • Berkeley <city>
          • Palo Alto <city>
          • San Francisco <city>
            • Mission-Bernal Heights <district>
            • Golden Gate <district>
            • Castro-Noe Valley <district>

The hierarchy of each article is automatically displayed in the breadcrumb navigation menu below each article. For example, Castro Street's breadcrumb menu shows:

North America > United States of America > California > Bay Area > San Francisco > Castro-Noe Valley

Creating these menus requires entering the correct isPartOf tag, see breadcrumb navigation for the details.

Dividing geographical units[edit]

Dividing geographical units is something of a dark art. Use caution, consensus, and collaboration when possible. Some of the geographical units in this hierarchy are easy to decide on, in that they have legal boundaries: cities and countries, for example. Others are so well accepted that it's hard to imagine them being controversial, such as continents. But the others – continental sections, regions, and city districts – have fuzzier boundaries and definitions. How, then, do we decide where to define them?

Some guidelines are:

  • The 7 ± 2 rule. People find it easier to comprehend lists of around seven items [1]. If there are more than nine things to be grouped, we sub-divide the group into subgroups, each of which has 7 ± 2 things in it. This means that if there are very many countries in a continent, or cities in a country, it can be helpful to break those up into a number of groups, each of which has its own members. This doesn't need to be applied stringently to the lowest level of the hierarchy; if a region has more than nine cities in it, and there's no helpful way to divide it into subregions then don't split it. When dividing regions, use a breakdown that is most practical from the traveler's viewpoint, which may not necessarily make use of official government divisions. This guideline is most stringently applied to city lists for countries and continents which already contain nine entries. When there are already nine entries present then changes must be discussed on the article's talk page; changes that are not discussed will generally be reverted.
  • Traditional definitions. Some regions or continental sections or districts have traditional definitions: the Benelux countries, The Lake District, the American Southwest. It's best when possible to follow these traditional groupings, as travelers will recognize them.
  • Political or legal definitions. Some countries are divided into states, provinces, counties, cantons or what have you by their governments. It sometimes makes sense to use these if they're the best way to break up a region, and when they're not so numerous they'd violate the 7±2 rule. For example, Mexico has 32 states — far too many for the top level regions.
  • Geography. Some areas have clear geographical features that are recognizable to travelers and dictate the kind of activities can be undertaken there. For example, the Hudson Valley or the Saxon Ore Mountains.
  • Language or cultural definitions. Some countries have clean divisions between language or ethnic lines. So, for example, Belgium might be easy to divide into Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia.

Districts in cities[edit]

Deciding when the city should be treated as huge and therefore needs districts articles is a bit tricky. It's easy to create dozens of district articles, but from this point it may become a nightmare to keep them organized and synchronized. This is why we have some recommendations on when to districtify:

  • don't start splitting a city into districts before there's enough content
  • don't create district articles until you have proposed a comprehensive districts hierarchy for the city, which has no gaps, no overlap
  • don't start moving out information into districts unless you have at least one contributor who is willing and ready to rewrite the main article sections, to give overviews with pointers to the most important and relevant information within the district articles.
  • avoid creating a separate district article until we have enough content for it
  • to breed content for a district(s), you can create a subsection for that district(s) in the respective section (See, Do, Eat, Sleep) in the main city article

Once we have enough content for creating a district article, we want to make sure it's clear where all the information goes. Prior to adding district articles:

  • define district borders for those districts that we are ready to separate; ideally have a map clearly showing districts and borders
  • post the district borders section on the city article's talk page

Once the new district articles have been created, all listings should moved to district articles. Consider putting the template {{districtify}} at the start of sections that need to be sorted into districts. This adds a message which encourages editors to move the content. Remove districtify when the content has been moved out.

Note on legal names versus travel names[edit]

The legal divisions in the geography of the world – nations, provinces, and cities – don't necessarily make for reasonable travel divisions. Just because some national government decided it would be easier to administer some swath of land by laying down lines on the official map doesn't mean that they deserve separate articles in Wikivoyage. Yes, Baja California Norte and Baja California Sud are technically two different Mexican states, but for purposes of a Wikivoyage article, it makes sense to combine them into Baja California.

Overlap[edit]

In general, we try to avoid overlap between two destination guides, unless one destination contains the other. If we have overlapping guides, readers don't know where to go to get travel information, and contributors don't know where to put travel information. It's also easier to draw maps for a destination if none of the parts of the destination overlap.

No two regions at the same level of the hierarchy should overlap. Nonetheless, if a subregion is commonly understood as belonging to more than one parent region (e.g., Russia is in both Asia and Europe) it is perfectly fine to list it in both parent regions as long as this does not create significant content overlap. A region's breadcrumb trail, however, will display only a single parent region in a strict hierarchical fashion.

Occasionally a well-defined region will straddle a political boundary between two countries, states, or provinces. It is usually preferable to deal with these instances as a single region, rather than dividing them up into unnatural, small pieces divided by the imaginary lines of borders. An example would be Lake Tahoe, a region between California and Nevada.

Gaps[edit]

Regions and districts breakdowns should never leave any gaps. Wikivoyage is a guide to the world, and there should be a space to add content for travel advice on any destination on the planet.

Linking articles[edit]

Every city or other destination article should be listed in at least one region article, as it should be possible to navigate through the hierarchy to each and every destination article on the site. Cities, Other divisions, and Other destinations should be mentioned under those section headings in at least the surrounding Region article. This should normally be the same article mentioned in the IsIn or IsPartOf template.

Regions should be mentioned in both the next larger region up in the hierarchy and in all the destinations within that region.

When Destinations are close to each other, but not in the same regional hierarchy, it is useful to mention them in each other's Get out section.

Keeping it together[edit]

Sometimes it may be better to keep things together rather than subdividing further. Do not create an article about a geographical unit just because someone has given a name to some part of the countryside. Geographical unit articles need to meet the criteria for articles too. There should be enough scope in the article to have at least 4 or 5 good quality destinations or attractions, especially for regions.

See also[edit]