• LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

Clarify CK relationships

Recommend Site Improvements

Join LibraryThing to post.

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 5:17am Top

I sometimes enter CK relationships, and never know which direction to use.

Timna Brauer is Arik Brauer's Daughter. If I enter that should it read Brauer, Arik (daughter) or Brauer, Arik (father)?

The examples don't help me. If an example contained both the author whose page it was on and the related person of the other sex, it would be crystal clear.

Feb 26, 2012, 4:35am Top

In the parentheses you put the relation of the person whose name you just typed to the person whose CK page you're on. The word(s) in parentheses tell you who the person is/was.

Feb 26, 2012, 4:40am Top

Perhaps it could be added to the examples that they all are for Aldous Huxley?

Feb 26, 2012, 5:09am Top

yes it would be an idea to have an example on the page.
Looking I notice someone used the all purpose sibling for Charles on Mary Lamb's on her page.
we could start
maybe if gave Spot(dog) as an example relationship. that would be sufficient.

Showing one person and the unambigiously related the examples would be better, If only Charles and mary had a few more relationships listed they would be ideal. the Durrells to show only filial relationships, Can any one think of some with both filial and professional relationships with other authors?

Feb 26, 2012, 5:17am Top

3> But that still only helps if you know how those people are related.

I still have no idea whether I did it right or not.

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 5:24am Top

Urgh While I was editing Yes Anglemark of course the present example shows a variety.

I think the ideal example would show a relationship that involved different sexes. Brother when referring to two men is still ambigious in its direction, something that brother/sister husband/wife, owner/dog relationships make explicit.

How telling it is that I places those relationships in such a patriarchal order.

Feb 26, 2012, 5:31am Top

If we are are on Aldous Huxley's page and we see

Huxley, Julian (brother), we must interpret that ALDOUS is Julian's brother.
Orwell, George (student), and ALDOUS is Orwell's student.
Huxley, Leonard (father), and ALDOUS is Leonard's father.

So this on Timna Brauer's page
Brauer, Arik (father) would mean TIMNA is Arik's father.


Feb 26, 2012, 5:39am Top

The examples are ambiguous unless you KNOW, (as wikipedia does), that ALDOUS is actually Leonard's son!

So Julian is his brother. (useless as an example because brothers ARE brothers)
Leonard is his father... (you shouldn't have to go look that up)
so George Orwell was Aldous' student?? (who knew? who knows these things?)

and thus Arik is Timna's father.

Feb 26, 2012, 6:40am Top

I agree that the examples could be (should be) improved, but as I wrote, the word(s) in parentheses tell you who the person before the parentheses is/was. It's perfectly parallel to Tolkien, JRR (author). Why would it be different here?

Feb 26, 2012, 9:29am Top

Why is someone's student in the "relationship" field anyway? Might as well have "next door neighbor".

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 10:47am Top

10> Professional relationships are quite proper to include, That you or I may not consider a particular relationship noteworthy does not mean it is of no merit. if it has been entered then it is because someone considers it noteable.

Feb 26, 2012, 10:53am Top

> 11

"Professional relationships are quite proper to include".

No, they're not.

See the CK wiki page: We've also added a "Relationships" field, intended to capture when an author's spouse, son or other relative is also an author

Edited: Feb 26, 2012, 11:17am Top

Given that one of the examples that staff put in the examples next to the field is "Orwell, George (student)," I think it's safe to say that the relationships in that field need not only be familial.

However, some judgment is needed about notability, both of the relationship and of the people. The relationship between Huxley and Orwell is particularly notable, I assume, because both are well known and it's an interesting fact given their writings (even if, afaik, Huxley only taught Orwell for a very brief time). Similarly, the fact that one philosopher or scientist was the student of another may well be noteworthy.

On the other hand, I've seen a lot of people just list spouses' or children's names in that field, when those people are neither authors nor any kind of public figure. As far as professional relationships go, some are not noteworthy enough to go in there; there was a discussion once about co-authors and, if I'm remember correctly, the conclusion was that that was not significant enough.

ETA, this is from conceptdawg's semi official comments on co-authors, and it bears on this question of professional relationships. He said that co-authors don't belong there, and should be listed using the authors field. By contrast,

"Collaborators" intuits a more meaningful relationship, one which the field was certainly meant to handle.

He also said "collaborator" needs to mean something long-term, something more than just co-authorship on a book or an article.

Edited: Mar 4, 2014, 9:39pm Top

Concerning the original post, I too have the same confusion/doubt each time I add a relationship, and think clarification right there in the example text is in order.

I got here tonight because I found an example where somebody entered things the opposite way of what I had been doing and made me doubt all my edits (the person was the son of the person they were listing in that field, so they wrote "(son)"). I don't know the Huxley family tree and don't want to have to look it up each time.

I think simply adding an opposite-sex example would really help, e.g. "Huxley, Laura Archera (wife)".

Mar 4, 2014, 11:11pm Top

>14 omargosh:

It doesn't solve the generational problem, but I've taken to entering gender-neutral roles: spouse, sibling, parent, etc.

Mar 5, 2014, 1:00am Top

>15 PhaedraB: It doesn't solve the generational problem ...

"family line"? "lineage"? "asc/descendant"? "progeny/itor"? Wait, some of those could involve grandparents/grandkids. Shoot. Would "from the loins of" work? :-p

Mar 5, 2014, 2:12am Top

>16 omargosh: I think "parent," "child", "grandparent" etc. would work, but it doesn't clarify the opposites problem, i.e., is it John Smith, Jr. (child) on John Smith, Sr.'s profile, or the other way 'round? Personally, I believe John Smith Jr. (child) is correct. If it's not, I have entered a whole heck of a lot of bad CK.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 5:46am Top

From the help page (https://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Common_Knowledge#Relationships):

The entry should be in Lastname, Firstname format, just like Canonical Name, and the relationship should appear in parentheses. The relationship is who that person is in relation to the current person, e.g. on Isabel Fonseca's page, Martin Amis is listed as Amis, Martin (husband).

But nobody reads that, so I agree that the examples should be clarified.

Perhaps it would help to add something like "The entries should be read as name is the author's relation. For example, Huxley, Leonard (father) means Leonard Huxley is the author's father."

Mar 5, 2014, 5:45am Top

>12 lilithcat:
I agree wholeheartedly with this post, only adding that "is also an author" should have been in bold as well.

I confess to (very occasionally) deleting names of 'all rabbit's friends and relations' when they are not writers. Of course that still leaves the forlorn empty 'author' pages stuck in the system.

Mar 5, 2014, 10:14am Top

>17 PhaedraB:
Sorry if it wasn't clear, I was actually just kidding about all those options in 16. :-) And looks like you're doing it right.

>18 r.orrison:
Ah, I see you edited things since I saw your message last night before heading to bed: "But nobody reads that, so I agree that the examples should be clarified." Exactly. While I very much appreciate your always helpful feedback, the point is that we shouldn't have to bother. I shouldn't have to ask for input in Talk, or hunt down the Huxley family tree, or know about the wiki, and you shouldn't have to waste your time responding to my queries (sorry this is coming across as ungrateful ... I'm not! :-)), when there's an easy way to make it clearer right there in the contextual help text. Hence posting here in RSI instead of the CK group.

>19 abbottthomas:
Yeah, the help text could also clarify this. I recall finding on the Stephen Colbert page that somebody had gone to all the trouble of listing his wife and kids. Felt bad about undoing their efforts, but I knew the kids were just little'uns, and the wife's page was just blank. Thought it's not always easy to tell. In my example from yesterday, there was actually a spelling discrepancy that had it leading to a blank page, but the guy's father was indeed an author with works in LT.

Mar 5, 2014, 10:55am Top

>11 SimonW11:
>13 rsterling:

Maths Genealogy Project http://genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/index.php anyone?

For those who don't know that allows you to find out doctoral advisors/supervisors (amongst other things). It is probably the best and most complete academic genealogy I've seen.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 2:01pm Top

Some terms at least are bi-directional, like "sibling" or "spouse". At least if de-gendered.

For unidirectional terms, why not eliminate ambiguity in the text of the parenthetical, rather than hoping that the reader understands which form LT has standardized on? (assuming LT does standardize on a form)

Charlotte Bronte
- Emily Bronte (sibling)
- Anne Bronte (sibling)
- Branwell Bronte (sibling)
- Patrick Bronte (Charlotte's father)

Mar 5, 2014, 4:17pm Top

22 --

1) Why are you using "siblng" instead of "sister" and "brother"? It seems clearer when it is more specific.

Charlotte Bronte Page:

• Bronte, Emily (sister)
• Bronte, Branwell (brother)

Why say "Charlotte's father" when the name Patrick Bronte can appear on Charlotte's page as

• Bronte, Patrick (father)

2) I use teacher/student when it seems significant, though I realize it could get out of hand. Any relationship list could get out of hand, but for me that is not a problem. I trust my judgment. I can't speak for others.

Mar 5, 2014, 5:38pm Top

>23 barney67:

Although the question was not addressed to me, I began using "sibling" and "spouse" and "parent" when I had an AHA! moment about binary gender assumptions. Probably comes from knowing two friends who have children transitioning gender. And my late husband had an ex-wife who transitioned to male. If he (the ex) were an author, "spouse" would feel more appropriate than "wife."

Mar 5, 2014, 8:15pm Top

I can see why you would use those terms in real life, because that is your experience. But it isn't mine and it isn't the majority's, and I feel that on a web site, even a peculiar one like LibraryThing, ought to consider the consensus rather than the minority. That's why I use husband rather than spouse, because it is probably what the majority here know or use or both.

I am aware that these comments may be unpopular with the few, but among the many they are probably the norm.

Mar 5, 2014, 8:38pm Top

>25 barney67: The norm, perhaps, but norms are not ideals. The inclusion of other/unknown/disputed under gender is an example of an inclusionary solution.

"Sibling," "spouse" or "parent" convey the relationship perfectly clearly. Aside from personal preference, I don't see where there would be any problem using them. I'm not going to get into an editing war over it, but I am not going to change the way I'm doing it, and I hope by discussing it, other people will consider it themselves. But if they don't, no harm on either side.

Mar 5, 2014, 8:43pm Top

"Sibling," "spouse" or "parent" convey the relationship perfectly clearly

-- But they don't. A sibling could be either a brother or sister. The word "sibling" destroys that distinction. It's not personal preference. The meaning is conveyed only through the more specific term, not the vague one.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 10:39pm Top

> 27

My understanding (per > 22) is that the original argument for using de-gendered terms like "spouse" and "sibling" was that they're bi-directional . . .

Ex. If author Zelda Pafufnik is married to author Rolf Throttlebottom, it's never been entirely clear whether, when you list Rolf under "relations" on Zelda's CK page, it should be:

Rolf Throttlebottom (husband) . . . as in "Rolf is/was husband to Zelda, whose CK page this is"


Rolf Throttlebottom (wife) . . . as in "Zelda, whose CK page this is, is/was wife to Rolf"

Using "spouse," or "sibling" was a work-around for that . . . though one that, alas, doesn't scale to cross-generation relationships.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 11:36pm Top

23 > The reason that I listed in this thread for non-gender-binary terms is that it can avoid linguistic confusion that otherwise would require additional disambiguation, as was described in the first 21 messages.

So your question, "1) Why are you using "siblng" instead of "sister" and "brother"? It seems clearer when it is more specific."

Yes, it's "more specific", but because it is gender-specific, the specificity can thus require additional disambiguation. Frankly, can and should, because how else can a reader know who's a brother or sister? (see the first 21 messages) But "sibling" or "spouse" work just fine.

** Just as #28 said.

The argument for gender-non-specificity that #24 mentions is also relevant. As for, "But it isn't mine and it isn't the majority's," -- I submit that most people know some same-sex couples, or know of some same-sex couples. So you may wish to reconsider.

As for the inter-generational relations (or other more complex relationships) -- I strongly urge that we simply spell out the relationship in the CK. Even if we settle on a format for LT, it's going to leave a significant percentage of readers confused. There doesn't seem to be any downside to saying "(Charlotte's sibling)" or "(Charlotte's brother)".

Mar 6, 2014, 3:40am Top

The problem with same-sex couples is to know what to call a partner. 'Partner' usually seemed OK although there can be confusion with professional partners, but since civil partnerships and, now, same-sex marriages are common should one be more specific. I have heard a woman describe her (female) partner as her 'wife' - although never as her 'husband'. Does 'spouse' imply a formal relationship? My head hurts! ;-)

Mar 6, 2014, 8:23am Top

* spouse implies a formal wedded relationship and is AFAIK always appropriate for those circumstances, same-sex or opposite-sex (or for that matter polygamist).

* "partner" or "companion" are for informal non-wedded relationships and are similarly appropriate for same- or opposite-sex relationships. They're not precisely analogous because they don't necessarily denote a sexual component to the relationship. Although I guess that's not untrue for spouse, either.

Mar 6, 2014, 9:50am Top

I have just been entering CK data for George Barker and Elizabeth Smart and went along with (lover) that had already been entered as their relationship. The couple, who did not marry, had four children (two on LT as authors) and a long term, though not monogamous, relationship. Barker fathered another 11 children, I think, with other women. Somehow (lover), although presumably accurate, seems a bit inadequate for the Barker/Smart ménage.

Mar 6, 2014, 10:11am Top

>29 lquilter:

I submit that most people know some same-sex couples, or know of some same-sex couples.

Yeah, but that's not quite the issue here. I call my wife my wife, and she does the same for me; all our married lesbian friends I can think of do the same, and likewise with "husband" for our married gay male friends. If I hear someone referring to their "spouse", it's either a case where their spouse doesn't identify on the gender binary or where they prefer not to disclose the sex of their spouse. This may be regional and/or age-based variation; I do know a lot more people used "spouse" when they were closeted, or when they couldn't be legally married.

I do agree with the use of the gender-neutral term, but for gender binary reasons, not sexual orientation reasons.

Mar 6, 2014, 1:08pm Top

> 33 My partner & I generally use "partner" unless she's really trying to annoy me. (She will put "Mrs." on my airline tickets.) I use "spouse" in certain professional circles.

My sexual orientation reason is sort of an offshoot of the CK relationship thing that started this here. And, warning, not helpful:

I don't like "wife" or "husband" as a status of an individual; they're relational titles, so there's at least as good a claim to someone being married to a woman being a "husband", and thus same-sex-female relationships are both husbands, and vice versa for male relationships both being wives. Socially speaking, though, most people identify their their (potential) relational role strongly with their gender ... so lesbians are wife-wife, and gay men are husband-husband. That's an embedded gender binary that makes me uncomfortable. The fact that the terms "wife" and "husband" come with a lot of historical and legal baggage make me even more uncomfortable. So, I avoid them.

And, returning to the broader conversation: If we all just use the polite, accurate, unambiguous, and completely uncontroversial terms "sibling" and "spouse", then we can avoid the hermeneutics of parentheticals and gender-relational titles alike.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 1:32pm Top

"I submit that most people know some same-sex couples, or know of some same-sex couples."

-- We'll have agree to disagree on this one. I don't know any. But I'm not sure it's relevant.

"went along with (lover)"

-- I've seen the use of "lover" and I'm not fond of it. I delete it. I have neither the desire, the time, nor the ability to know who is in love with whom, whether in the present or the past. That is far too complex for something like CK. As someone mentioned, "partner," "companion," and other common terms have traditionally been asexual words, or now, at least multiple definitions

When I see the use of terms like "binary gender assumptions, transitioning gender, de-gendered," in someone's post, keep in mind that most people don't talk this way. Most people don't think this way. I'm guessing maybe 90%. Just as they don't know what disambiguation is. I write to you now as an American midwesterner who has been in both intellectual and non-intellectual circles, so to speak, to make a gross simplification. Call it the democrat in me.

Again, I have neither the time, desire, or ability to determine if Willa Cather or Marianne Moore were lesbians and what the nature of their relationships with men and women were. For my part, I don't care. I like their work and that's what matters. Perhaps our world is unpardonably nosy. I don't know how to fit a vague, complex word like "love" into a square printed box. Relationships take many shapes.

Please understand that I am not trying to insult anyone. I like to tell people how I am doing CK. I also like to see it done uniformly because I think it benefits all. Often I have had to remind myself of a lesson I have had to learn the hard way over years. Whether in writing, making speeches, or even in conversation, keep in mind who your audience is.

Mar 6, 2014, 1:33pm Top

>34 lquilter:

That's fair, and an entirely understandable stance. The historical baggage associated with the word "wife" doesn't bother me personally, and for me the value in being able to communicate the nature of my relationship by saying "my wife" as a woman outweighs it; society is heteronormative enough that if I refer to 'my spouse' when she isn't present and I don't use her name (which is gendered) people will assume I'm talking about a man, which bothers me. I'm just explaining my own reasoning, though, not trying to convince you to change your own usage!

And, returning to the broader conversation: If we all just use the polite, accurate, unambiguous, and completely uncontroversial terms "sibling" and "spouse", then we can avoid the hermeneutics of parentheticals and gender-relational titles alike.


>35 barney67: When I see the use of terms like "binary gender assumptions, transitioning gender, de-gendered," in someone's post, keep in mind that most people don't talk this way. Most people don't think this way. I'm guessing maybe 90%.

That's unfortunate, and it's something that I think is worth working to change. However, for this particular issue, it's not a case of newly coined words that are going to confuse anyone; it's a case of using commonplace English words that are immediately understood, though, so if those 90% don't know why someone uses "spouse" they'll still understand the word - it's not like the title "Mx" (which I only recently encountered myself) that might appear to be an error.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 2:45pm Top

>35 barney67:

"For my part, I don't care."
You seem to care enough to delete it when other people have entered it in CK.

"I don't know how to fit a vague, complex word like "love" into a square printed box. Relationships take many shapes."
And how is that different from the "friend" relationships that you do deem ok to enter? Would you mind people deleting those friendships that you've entered because they "have neither the desire, the time, nor the ability to know" who is friends with whom?

ETA: In 35, barney67 originally discussed adding friend relationships, but seems to have removed that, which is fine, whatever, but I'm noting it so that my reply doesn't make me look too much like a crazy person making stuff up. :-)

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 3:05pm Top

>35 barney67:
I "went along with" (lover) because I generally don't alter CK that reflects differences in opinion rather than inaccuracies of fact. The pedant in me goes to the dictionary - Lover: someone who loves, esp someone in a sexual relationship with another person (Chambers 10th ed.). In the example I gave the couple had AFAIK shared in the conception of four children over a number of years (OK, who really knows, but Mr Barker did accept paternity) so the term is accurate enough by that definition. I'm not sure what I would have put instead: it didn't seem quite right but wasn't, for me, wrong enough to change.

>37 omargosh: Yes, friends - that's something else! I have recently noted a couple of criminal trials in which the press reported that the accused had been found guilty of murdering "a friend". Maybe I will delete (friend) when I see it ;-)

Mar 6, 2014, 3:01pm Top

> 38


Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 3:07pm Top

>39 lilithcat:
That certainly sounds more romantic!

Mar 6, 2014, 3:39pm Top

I can't help but view the deletion of (lover), in this context, as a deliberate and calculating act of closeting.

Mar 6, 2014, 3:56pm Top

I'm going to contribute to this conversation by running an analysis of what people are actually putting in the parentheses here.

Mar 6, 2014, 4:23pm Top

Here's everything above 50:

3,701 (wife)
3,358 (husband)
3,028 (father)
2,569 (son)
2,274 (brother)
1,699 (daughter)
1,593 (friend)
1,319 (mother)
1,130 (sister)
684 (spouse)
526 (grandfather)
466 (uncle)
452 (cousin)
446 (student)
428 (teacher)
370 (grandson)
355 (nephew)
310 (partner)
233 (lover)
232 (granddaughter)
215 (brother-in-law)
211 (niece)
206 (aunt)
190 (colleague)
173 (sister-in-law)
164 (grandmother)
161 (father-in-law)
144 (co-author)
137 (testcase)
135 (son-in-law)
135 (collaborator)
124 (ex-husband)
118 (ex-wife)
108 (husband|divorced)
106 (co-editor)
105 (great-grandfather)
98 (mentor)
96 (wife|divorced)
91 (great-grandson)
78 (doctoral student)
72 (doctoral advisor)
67 (Husband)
64 (daughter-in-law)
59 (Father)
59 (half-brother)
58 (Wife)
57 (PhD advisor)
53 (companion)

Here are some onesies:

1 (aide to)
1 (architect)
1 (husband), Chandler Washburne (Son), Margaret Washburne (Daughter), Julia Davis Chandler (Mother)
1 (PHK is nephew to BK)
1 (3)
1 (Nell's father)
1 (father)(Boston newspaper editor)
1 (wife & co-author)
1 (Irene's sister-in-law)
1 (co-author, romantic partner)
1 (grandfather)(RI newspaper editor)
1 (wife) benedict daniels (son)
1 (great-great-great uncle)
1 (bruder)
1 (bandleader)
1 (wife, married 1905-11-11)
1 (husband and editor)
1 (Moore) (wife)
1 (Irene's cousin)
1 (husband), Kaity (daughter), Travis (son), Ryan (son)
1 (Rulon's nephew)
1 (teammate at UCLA)

Mar 6, 2014, 4:25pm Top

Ha. You might also want to look at what people are putting in the field in general, not just in the parentheses. Things like: "married, two kids" or "seven children" or "twin daughters."

Mar 6, 2014, 4:26pm Top

137 (testcase)

What's that about?

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 4:30pm Top

> 46

Why am I not surprised?

Mar 6, 2014, 4:32pm Top

(47: If I remember correctly, he uses that field to force-create author pages.)

Mar 6, 2014, 4:35pm Top

That explains garbage like this.

Honestly, some people should be barred from "helping".

Mar 6, 2014, 4:49pm Top


What would be interesting would be how many of those are used in the inverted sense. What this thread originally pointed out was that since all people in the example text are male, unless you have prior knowledge of their relationships you don't know whether Y (father) in the CK Relationships field for X means that X is Y's father or that Y is X's father.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 5:08pm Top

LibraryThing in general favors popular over "right." The primary title for a work is the name it's known by. Authors too.

If we follow that rule here, we'd notice that "wife" and "husband" are used ten times more than "spouse." "Brother" and "sister" are far more than that--used 3,404 times, whereas "sibling" isn't on the list at all. (I looked and it's currently used only six times!)

That said, I'm not at all inclined to insist on the more common terms. Unlike for works and authors, the data stakes here are not high, as they sometimes are elsewhere. Having LibraryThing call it "Братья Карамазовы" instead of "The Brothers Karamazov" or the correct, but seldom used, "The Karamazov Brothers" would confuse members. Ditto Samuel Clemens instead of Mark Twain; people would say "Who's he?" That's not true here. People understand all these terms. And if we ever wanted to "use" the relationship data, LibraryThing's crack programmers could figure out a way to understand "brother," "sister" and "sibling" as the same essential relationship.

So, my inclination would be that we should use the terms we want to use, and, to avoid fights, avoid messing with others people's work unless it's actually wrong. All the terms above are acceptable because they are easily understood and, if necessary, can be parsed by a computer into something richer at a later date.

If someone wants to use the data to score points—replacing all "wives" with "domestic slave," or removing all references to same-sex marital relationships or second marriages, on the grounds these "aren't real"—that would be another thing entirely. It would be both offensive and destructive of data.

In my own practice, I favor saying that Kingsley and Martin Amis are father and son, not parent and child. But I'd use sibling if I had the sense the author would prefer that term, or I could reasonably infer a potential issue from the various options in the gender field—or if I'm being lazy and want to paste in five siblings and change as few words as possible.

As for "lover" and so forth, I think descriptive terms are descriptive, and more data is often better. Looking at my list, I see terms like "paramour," "co-conspirator," "shipmate," and "second cousin 1x removed" and think, "Hey, who's that?!" Obviously I'd remove designations designed to cause offense, but I'm not spotting any.

Anyway, that's my feeling. Fire away.

PS: I do see that "sibling" has the distinct advantage of thwarting directional mistakes. But I'd rather improve the prompt, or the user interface, than force people to use a term that's been so rarely used. Also, while sibling solves that problem, we can't solve the directionality problems of parent and child that way.

Mar 6, 2014, 4:51pm Top

Looks like that's just the English relationships too. Was kinda surprised there was only 1 "bruder". Looks like a search reveals more like ~250 "Bruder"s. Don't know the German for "lover", but there are 44 listings for amante, half of which seem to be for Alexandre Dumas, haha.

Mar 6, 2014, 4:52pm Top

Yes. I only did English. If you want another language, pick it.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 5:04pm Top

Here's another "test case" - http://www.librarything.com/author/millontheodore - this man went to school with Maurice Sendak. They both used to draw on the blackboard together. What is their relationship?

BTW I did like (bandleader)

Mar 6, 2014, 5:04pm Top

Nah, was just making a note of it, but thanks for the offer. What I would like is better contextual help text, though! :-) (Unless you're saying there is no "wrong" way to do the child-parent order thing?)

Mar 6, 2014, 11:14pm Top

35 > You now know me. I'm a woman in a same-sex relationship.

Mar 6, 2014, 11:25pm Top

>56 lquilter:

Since your opinion seems to differ from mine, and frankly because you so often speak sense, what do you think of my data and conclusions?

Mar 7, 2014, 8:38am Top

Hi Tim -- I think what you said in #51 is eminently sensible! My distillation: Don't mess with someone else's CK unless it's WRONG, or HARMFUL.

The data is not surprising -- of course most people use the conventional wording "husband" and "wife". Actually that's wrong; it is a little surprising. I would have expected a lot more things like "1 (husband), Kaity (daughter), Travis (son), Ryan (son)" in the onesies. We CK-habituees try to clean that sort of thing up, of course, and I guess we do a better job than I would have imagined.

The original problem, though, is directionality -- When we say, on A's page, "B (Ph.D. advisor)", do we mean that A advised B, or B advised A? * I'm switching to "Ph.D. advisor" as my go-to example since it's clearly directional and doesn't involve the other issues.*

I'm not convinced that better signage will solve it. Sadly, after working in libraries for many years, I've come to conclude that signage doesn't really help. (-:

Mar 7, 2014, 9:33am Top

>58 lquilter: "I've come to conclude that signage doesn't really help"

I think it does. It doesn't prevent those who can't be bothered to read the signage from screwing things up, but at least the people who care and pay attention will know what to fix it to.

Mar 7, 2014, 9:47am Top

Yes, to go with the library analogy, it's like not putting out classification labels on the shelves. Sure, people will put books in the wrong places whether you do or you don't, but the librarians need them to put the books right again.

Mar 7, 2014, 7:13pm Top

Having spent decades in retail, I can assure you that people do not read signs :-)

It's a truism in retail that you can have a huge sign giving prices but you'll still have customer after customer come and ask you how much it costs. And as for return policies or credit card policies or anything in a more arcane realm than pricing, forget it.

In retail, you can you can use price stickers to solve some problems, but I don't think that would work for CK. Although, the image of Tim with a CK sticker gun is somehow appealing...

Mar 8, 2014, 3:39am Top

>58 lquilter:, >59 LShelby:. >61 PhaedraB:

The Great Unwashed™ may be unhelpable, but for us weirdos that do read signs, at least some of the time, it would be much appreciated if the instructions were clearer wrt directionality. I was entering a father-son relationship recently and the most time-consuming part of it was trying to figure out the directionality.

(Feel free to check if I eventually got it right - Bernard S. Bachrach is the father of David S. Bachrach.)

Edited: Mar 8, 2014, 4:24am Top

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Even if it did take two years to learn that.

Off topic:
I gave up on 'sibling' a long time ago. Mom always used it, but it upset an early teacher (kindergarden, 1st grade) to have a child talk about her siblings. Luckily German has 'Geschwister' which is perfectly acceptable for general use, but only exists in the plural.

Mar 8, 2014, 5:11am Top

// Lucky Germans! One does need 'sibling' if only to be part of the (very necessary) term 'sibling-rivalry' ;-) //

Edited: Mar 8, 2014, 5:19am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 8, 2014, 5:19am Top

#63 by MarthaJeanne> 'Geschwister' can only be used in the plural? How inconvenient. I feel fortunate that 'syskon' can be used both as a plural and a singular in Swedish and that we have specific words for paternal grandparents versus maternal grandparents.

Edited: Mar 8, 2014, 5:47am Top

My big dictionary allows it in the singular for biology, statistics, and poetical use. The Ge- part is a collective prefix, so singular use feels wrong. In general, if you can know the gender, you are expected to use it.

Ah, yes, I'd forgotten that one: 'Geschwisterchen'. With a diminutive suffix it can be used in the singular when talking to a child about an expected new baby in the family. And 'Geschwisterkind' is not a singular sibling, but the child of a sibling = niece or nephew.

I am sure that having separate words for maternal and paternal grandparents can be useful. But can you easily say, 'We are expats, so the boys don't really know their grandparents,' meaning all four?

Mar 8, 2014, 10:57am Top

#67 by MarthaJeanne> Regarding the last question: No, we don't have a noun to include both pairs, but what we say is pretty short anyway: "far- & morföräldrar".

Mar 8, 2014, 1:20pm Top

#68 by anglemark> I didn't know Swedish could be that easy :-)

Mar 9, 2014, 12:59am Top

gendered terms are in my opinion preferable to nongendered terms because used correctly they provide more information. There are undoubtedly times there can be disagreement or confusion about the correct usage. Save the none gendered terms for then.

I do not want to look at an entry for A Smith to see if B Jones has a brother or a sister. Or increasingly a husband or a wife. I want the info on the page not a click away.

Mar 9, 2014, 1:16am Top

Am I the only one that thinks Tim has missed the point of the original request. to have a two gendered relationships rather than ambiguous ones in the examples. Could you address this directly Tim?

Mar 9, 2014, 3:39am Top

His PS sounds encouraging.

Mar 9, 2014, 11:37am Top

oh it does indeed how did I miss that?

It seems IM just like those customers who ignore signage.

Edited: Mar 9, 2014, 10:38pm Top

Okay, someone rewrite the help? Right now it is:

Huxley, Julian (brother), Orwell, George (student), Huxley, Leonard (father)

We could just abandon the example mode and say what you need to do.


Mar 10, 2014, 12:28am Top

My suggestion:
Huxley, Julian (brother), Huxley, Laura Archera (wife), Orwell, George (student). Only add other authors.
Still heteronormative and cisnormative, but I think an improvement of what's there now in terms of the direction issue.

We could just abandon the example mode and say what you need to do.

I personally learn these kinds of things better by examples than by text explanations, but that's just me.

Mar 10, 2014, 12:38am Top

I think we need to confront the directionality issue more clearly, if we're going to change it.

Mar 10, 2014, 1:50am Top

Something like:

Note directionality: if Alice is the daughter of Bob, on Alice's page enter "Bob (father)", on Bob's "Alice (daughter)".


Edited: Mar 10, 2014, 3:17am Top

I think either suggestion would work. But I would make sure that (like work to work) that it says only to add authors that already have pages on LT.

In fact reprogramming it so that works like the work to work relationships would be a nice pony.

Mar 10, 2014, 6:08am Top

Christina Rossetti (sister),
Polidori, John (uncle),
Brown, Ford Madox (tutor),
Helen Rossetti Angeli (niece),
Rossetti, Gabriele (father),

Mar 10, 2014, 8:27am Top

If you're changing the guidance, can you add that this is for relationships to other authors or notable people?

Mar 10, 2014, 9:20am Top

But I would make sure that (like work to work) that it says only to add authors that already have pages on LT.

What's the argument for this?

I know that, if the author doesn't exist, it won't work entirely right. But it can be corrected with the canonical name.

>79 SimonW11:

Is your point to explain directionality.

If you're changing the guidance, can you add that this is for relationships to other authors or notable people?

How do I say that. I need more suggestions! :)

Mar 10, 2014, 9:24am Top

Is there a character limit to the text? Or line limit?

Mar 10, 2014, 9:29am Top

>81 timspalding: I think "already have pages" is a bid to make it so that non-authors (random family members and the like) are not able to be added.

Mar 11, 2014, 4:16am Top

81> Yes, Sorry Tim You are indeed addressing it. If I had read your addendum I would have known that.

Mar 12, 2014, 9:57am Top

>81 timspalding:

The argument for explicitly stating that relationships should only be used to add authors that already have pages on LT is twofold:

1. It will prevent people from adding things like "two children".

2. It will give stronger ground to tell gangleri to stop his practice of using the field specifically to create author pages for authors with no books for reasons known only to himself. (He's usually pretty good about stopping specific annoying practices when asked, but needs to be asked specifically for each different annoying practice; he doesn't seem to generalize that if abusing one feature in this way is annoying, abusing others in the same way is annoying too.)

Something like "This is designed to provide information about relationships between authors. It should not be used for relationships with people who do not have an author page on LT. Do not add authors to LT for the purpose of linking to them with this field."

Mar 12, 2014, 4:31pm Top

It's of possible that an author could have a personal relationship with an author who as yet has no works cataloged on LT, so I'm not entirely comfortable with banning currently-uncataloged-on-LT authors from the field.

Wouldn't it be just as simple to rename the field from "Relationships" to "Relationships to other Authors"?

Mar 13, 2014, 5:18am Top

86 > Wouldn't it be just as simple to rename the field from "Relationships" to "Relationships to other Authors"?


Having the field named "Relationships" and then saying that large numbers of the actual relationships must be excluded is just always going to be confusing.

Mar 13, 2014, 7:08am Top

> 74

I'd use a less high-brow / more contemporary exemplar, and start by naming them, eg,

Bush, George W.: Bush, George (father), Bush, Laura (wife), Bush, Jenna (daughter)

Obama, Barack: Obama, Michelle (wife), Dunham, S. Ann (mother), Wright, Jeremiah (pastor)

As if all these people wrote all their own stuff! Where does (ghostwriter) come in your list of relationships, Tim?

Mar 13, 2014, 1:46pm Top

>88 Cynfelyn:

Your examples are good, but perhaps too USA-centric. I wouldn't expect an international audience to have a clue as to the names of George W. Bush's wife or offspring.

Mar 13, 2014, 2:39pm Top

89 - Agreed that it might be possible to come up with less US-centric examples. But I do think these are good for the problem at hand: no one is going to mistake the directionality in this case -- no one is going to think that George W Bush is Jenna Bush's daughter.

Mar 13, 2014, 2:41pm Top

I would prefer to see someome known primarily as an author rather than a US politician.

Mar 13, 2014, 2:46pm Top


Yeah. The example's not perfect, but everyone is going to know that George Bush is male, which is all that's required for the example in this case to be clearer than the current one.

Edited: Mar 13, 2014, 3:15pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Mar 14, 2014, 2:05pm Top

I like PhaedraB's suggestion for the label change, and I like Cynfelyn's examples fine (especially Obama for including a non-family relationship), and only find slightly confusing the "Obama, Barack:" part (it kind of gives me the impression it should be entered too). Assuming this text still hasn't changed because we're waiting for the perfect (read: nonexistent) literary/non-political, internationally-known-or-neutral, non-unisex-named examples where everybody recognizes the relationship, here's another go:
Relationships to other authors
Examples on the William S. Burroughs page might include: Burroughs, William S., Jr. (son), Burroughs, Laura Lee (mother), Kerouac, Jack (friend)
In anticipation of the following "buts": "but the Jr. format is hard to parse", "but WSB Jr. is technically the 3rd", "but that's so long", "but friend is so nebulous", "but it's USA-centric", here's yet another attempt:
Relationships to other authors
Examples for Sylvia Plath: Hughes, Ted (husband), Hughes, Frieda (daughter), Lowell, Robert (teacher)
But if we're hoping for an example where everybody will already know the people involved and how they are related, I suspect the Obama examples will be known to more people than any literary examples (I've never heard of half the people above, so for me they still depend on male/female names, or the Jr. thing, which is fine — for addressing directionality, any of the Bush/Obama/Burroughs/Plath examples is better than what's currently there).

Mar 14, 2014, 2:37pm Top

>94 omargosh:
FWIW I, too, would vote for Phaedra's suggestion in #86. I like your example of Sylvia Plath. I would have thought that most bookish folk (even non-US/UK) would have heard of her, if that's important, and I guess that it's mostly bookish folk who enter relationships in CK.

Or am I being elitist? ;-)

Mar 14, 2014, 3:27pm Top

>94 omargosh:

so for me they still depend on male/female names, or the Jr. thing, which is fine

Yeah. The current example depends on knowing the specific relationships of the specific people involved to a single unnamed individual; note that the example text doesn't even clarify that they're all for the same person, or who it is!

Mar 15, 2014, 10:59am Top

Personally, I'd go with Stephen King for an example. He's one of the most well known authors in the world, and Hill, Joe (son) is also fairly well known. Also King, Tabitha (wife) and King, Owen (son) are at least published authors.

Edited: Mar 15, 2014, 11:35am Top

>97 yoyogod: I think King is a great example. His daughter in law Kelly Braffet is also a published writer. She is married to Owen King, so there are lots of different examples to include.

Edited: Mar 15, 2014, 7:05pm Top

The only Joe Hill I know is the one who never died. And he would be way older than King if he were still around.

I'm glad you used this as an example, though. Some @)*#$^ threw all the works under one author, and I've just spent quite a while splitting the page.

Edited: Mar 29, 2014, 3:11pm Top

56 --

• You're wrong. I don't know you. All I know is a username on a computer screen. I don't know anyone on this site. My knowing you or others, gay or not, is irrelevant to this thread.

• And I was wrong. I do know homosexuals and have known them in the past. A little bit of reflection, less enthusiastic posting, would have saved me a lot of trouble.

• Again there is criticism and suspicion of my editing, that I am up to nefarious deeds. I have had to put up with these remarks in the past. I've addressed this before, but I can't seem to get the point across. For anyone interested in how I write posts, continue. Others, much obliged for your time.

A Quick and Dirty Look at How I Write on the Internet
It might cause confusion that I rarely write "ETA" when I edit a post. There are several reasons for this. When I first saw the acronym used on LibraryThing many years ago, I didn't know what it meant. I loathe acronyms to begin with and I dislike when they are used on the assumption that every reader knows what they mean. My teachers, God bless them, drove into my head that upon using an acronym for the first time, one writes it out, then later abbreviates it. A courtesy for the reader, perhaps.

I make so many edits on a first post, even after previewing, that writing "ETA" to indicate every change would quickly become annoying. My mind moves quickly. I type quickly, often with errors in grammar, spelling, structure, vocabulary, logic. I also make typos. My keyboard is very old, repeats keys and so on. I need a new one, probably. I do reflect before I write and I do proofread. But I have neither the time nor the desire to write for the ages, as it were, in a medium like the internet which encourages disposability. Different mediums encourage different forms of writing, varying levels of formality and so on. The internet is quick and dirty, to quote a computer term from years back. It encourages me to write quickly, in fragments, in bursts of information. The medium is informal, so I wrote informally. I can spend only so much time on a post. If I get too obssessive about writing on the internet, I will be here all day.

When I see the word "edit" on someone's post, I think nothing of it. When readers see the word "edit" at the header of my post, they will have to decide whether they want to give me the benefit of the doubt. They will have to decide whether I am being honest or whether I am changing my mind to win an argument, to save face, or engaging in some form of deceit.

Mar 30, 2014, 9:33am Top

>99 lilithcat: If you are referring to the labor leader Joe Hill, I believe that King named his son after him. Joe Hill chose an abbreviated form of his name as his pseudonym so he could succeed on his own merits as a writer. He is a good writer, but anyone who reads both him and King will immediately see the resemblance. He looks a lot like his dad too. There was a great profile of the whole family in the New York Times Magazine a few months back that can probably be read online, for anyone who's interested.

Oct 6, 2016, 12:52pm Top

After almost two and a half years ... Bump.

>76 timspalding:: "I think we need to confront the directionality issue more clearly, if we're going to change it."

Several people have mentioned above that the current uni-gendered example doesn't really clarify directionality, so it needs to be more inclusive. Again, a bit USA-centric, but how about:

Examples for Hillary Rodham Clinton: Clinton, Bill (husband); Clinton, Chelsea (daughter).

Virginia Kelley (mother-in-law) is also a published author on LT. Although it would be good to have an example with a non-family relationship (mentor, friend etc.), if only to confirm to contributors that non-family relationships are welcomed.

Group: Recommend Site Improvements

82,923 messages

This group does not accept members.


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,196,843 books! | Top bar: Always visible