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Disambiguation for fictional namesakes of real people

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I started some discussion on this at Talk:D.C. Fontana (author), and Sulfur suggested that I bring it here for wider discussion. We've got several pages for in-universe characters who were created as tributes to real people, who we also have pages for. This is fine when the fictional namesake has a different identifying occupation than the real person, cases like Rick Berman (Admiral) or Tracy Tormé (comedian), but it creates potential confusion when both the real person and the fictional one have the same job, cases like D.C. Fontana/D.C. Fontana (author). These are mostly from production art, such as the Incredible Tales magazines created for DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars". The naming scheme for these articles isn't consistent: here's a chart of the ones I've found so far. (Feel free to add to this; I'm sure there are lots more I haven't found yet, from dedication plaques and so forth.)

Real person Fictional namesake
D.C. Fontana D.C. Fontana (author)
Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov (author)
Jerry Sohl Jerry Sohl (author)
Theodore Sturgeon Theodore Sturgeon (author)
Tracy Tormé Tracy Tormé (author)
John Eaves John Eaves (artist)
Rick Sternbach Rick Sternbach (artist)

There are some cases in which the on-screen reference is written differently from how the real person is usually credited, like Samuel A. Peeples (real) and Samuel Peeples (fictional); that's fine. There's also Stephen Hawking (fictional) and Stephen Hawking (actor) (real), which is slightly odd but not confusing. My concern is cases in which the disambiguator "(author)" or "(artist)" doesn't clarify whether it's the real person or their fictional namesake. There are two related questions:

  • In cases like this, should the disambiguator go to the real person or the fictional one? (I think that disambiguating the fictional one makes the most sense.)
  • What should the disambiguation term be? I don't think that "author" or "artist" works in these cases, because both the real person and the fictional one can be described with that term. I suggest that for the writers and artists from Incredible Tales we use (Incredible Tales writer) and (Incredible Tales artist), to distinguish them from the real writers and artists who worked on Star Trek. That leaves only Isaac Asimov and Isaac Asimov (author), which I'm not sure what would be best to do with.

Anyone have any thoughts? —Josiah Rowe 01:18, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

As we've done before, since we are an in-universe wiki, the real person should have the disambiguation. As for what could be used, (production) would work for most of them, since they're people who worked on the production of Star Trek. - Archduk3 05:50, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

Really? A fictional tribute on a bit of background set dressing that's not even visible without freeze-frame gets the "plain" title over the real person who made substantial contributions to Star Trek? I thought that MA was not just an in-universe wiki, but also a resource for information on the production of Star Trek. Is there an MA page that says that in-universe always "trumps" real world in article naming? —Josiah Rowe 07:34, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

You would think that since this has come up more than once Memory Alpha:Naming conventions would have something on it, but it doesn't. What we do have are the pages for The Cage, Far Beyond the Stars, The Corbomite Maneuver, Journey to Babel, and Trials and Tribble-ations. The naming order is, to use Alan's words, 1) in-universe 2) real world (everything else) 3) real world (episode title). - Archduk3 07:51, July 11, 2010 (UTC)
Found the main discussion on the naming priority here. - Archduk3 08:00, July 11, 2010 (UTC)
Archduk, the problem with that is pretty much every production staffer has a fictional counterpart on a dedicator plaque. It would be disingenuous to have such people like Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman shoved aside for Gene Roddenberry (Admiral) and Rick Berman (Admiral). I don't know where to draw the line between an important reference and set-dressing, but I think a bit of common sense is needed here.– Cleanse ( talk | contribs ) 08:17, July 11, 2010 (UTC)
I would tend to agree, and I believe that on a whole MA has created most of its own problems, case-in-point here with the POV guidelines, but that as long as we have them, we should actually stick to them instead of having yet another unwritten double standard, like we do now. Of course, I'm all for having a written, clearly defined double standard, provided that we actually write it down on the guideline page this time. ;p - Archduk3 09:01, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

Looking at the discussion Archduk points towards, it doesn't look as if there was a particularly strong consensus for always subordinating the real-world articles to the in-universe ones. The cases of The Cage, Far Beyond the Stars and so forth were bound up with technical issues with the {{e}} template; several users (notably Shran) expressed support for going with a "real-world first" naming scheme in at least some cases. The difficulty seems to be in determining where to draw the line. A hard-and-fast rule for "in-universe first" has at least the advantage of simplicity. On the other hand, giving incidental set dressing priority over the real person that set dressing was honoring seems like a clear case of "a foolish consistency [being] the hobgoblin of little minds". So I support Archduk's idea of figuring out where the line should be drawn, and drawing it explicitly.

To get the ball rolling, could we just say that although in general "in-universe" pages get naming priority over "real-world" pages (as in the examples of The Cage and so forth), for real people who worked on Star Trek the real-world article gets priority? Would there be any problems with setting that as the standard? —Josiah Rowe 17:48, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

That sounds good to me, though we do need to consider the case of Maury Ginsberg and Maury Ginsberg (actor), in which case the character is not merely a mention on a plaque, but a seen character with dialog. Stephen Hawking and Stephen Hawking (actor) as well. That said, I'm not sure we should have a radically different policy for two people and their characters. I think we need to keep in mind how to ensure people will find the information they are looking for.--31dot 17:59, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

I agree that helping people find what they're looking for with the minimum of fuss should be more important than a slavish consistency to an arbitrary rule. —Josiah Rowe 19:14, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

I purpose this as the guideline covering naming priority:
  • In-universe articles have priority over real-world articles, with the following exception:
    • Real-world production people have priority over their in-universe counterparts unless said counterpart was played onscreen by an actor or actress. A disambiguation should be placed at the top of each page pointing to the other.
This way all the real people should have priority with the exception of the two that, essentially, played themselves. - Archduk3 22:50, July 11, 2010 (UTC)

That makes sense to me. If this is added to the page on article naming, it might also be good to list some examples. I suppose we should wait a bit for other people to chime in before moving the pages in keeping with this, but this proposal works for me. —Josiah Rowe 00:52, July 12, 2010 (UTC)

That also sounds good to me. Another unusual case that hasn't been mentioned here is James T. Kirk vs. James T. Kirk (fan), but this would also be covered under your proposed exception to the exception ;-).– Cleanse ( talk | contribs ) 00:56, July 12, 2010 (UTC)
I like it and support its addition to the policy.--31dot 01:08, July 12, 2010 (UTC)
Chiming in a little late, but I have the guideline page Memory Alpha:Disambiguation to add, which states that "if there is one primary definition of the title, the more important subject can go on the main, simple title. This is open for discussion, though." Actually, this statement is about the placement of the disambiguation page itself, but it might just be generic enough to get away with not creating yet another complicated policy of musts and must-nots.
In other words, I think that the decision which of two pages gets the non-qualified title should be made in each individual case, based on the relative importance/relevance of the two or more articles in question, and not be preemptively decided by some policy. -- Cid Highwind 21:43, July 14, 2010 (UTC)
Cid, I agree with what you said to a point, in that there should always be the option of a case-by-case decision, and something could be added to that effect, but I don't actually think we are creating a new policy/guideline, just writing down and clarifying one that, more or less, is already inuse. The naming conventions page already says that they are only guidelines, not rules, and we all know that if someone has a problem with a disambiguation, we're going to hear about it. ;) - Archduk3 01:55, July 15, 2010 (UTC)
The big problem I have with that suggestion is that it defines some absolute strategy, only to define one special case exception to it - and then another exception to the exception. Wouldn't the simple statement "if one subject is much more prominent than the other, it gets the non-disambiguated title" solve the same issue without losing itself in absolutes and exceptions? -- Cid Highwind 09:32, July 15, 2010 (UTC)
I didn't really think we were dealing in absolutes, at least not any more then any other guideline, and I don't think that this would actually trump the "if one subject is much more prominent than the other, it gets the non-disambiguated title" idea either, since we've never really had a problem with exceptions, provided there was cause for one. I guess I would have to ask how you think this would be any different then how things are now, since from my point of view it's just moving a few pages and writing down the informal rule we have already been using. - Archduk3 10:04, July 15, 2010 (UTC)

Well, it looks like we've got a broad consensus that for the articles in the table above, the real person should get the non-disambiguated title. We're quibbling over whether there needs to be a written policy to that effect, and we don't yet have agreement on whether "author" is an adequate disambiguator (though it looks like I may be alone in my objections to that, in which case I'll drop the matter). Can an admin switch the Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon pages? I think we're all agreed on that, no? —Josiah Rowe 17:31, July 16, 2010 (UTC)

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? —Josiah Rowe 02:30, July 20, 2010 (UTC)

Note: the Asimov and Sturgeon pages have now been moved, and the links in the discussion above have been (somewhat confusingly) "corrected" to reflect the pages' new locations. Which, I suppose, is good for ensuring link consistency, but rather makes a mess for any newcomers trying to follow the point of this discussion; anybody who wants to see what the page looked like before the "corrections" can see it in the page history here. —Josiah Rowe 18:24, October 24, 2010 (UTC)

Also note that a slight change was made in the wording at MA:DISAMBIG in addition to an example there to attempt to explain things better. The consensus is not so much the "real person", but rather the "most important person". If there are two of equal importance (for some reason), then they would both be disambiguated, and the bare link would be a disambiguation page. -- sulfur 19:00, October 24, 2010 (UTC)

That makes sense, and I support the change to MA:DISAMBIG. —Josiah Rowe 19:05, October 24, 2010 (UTC)

Parenthetical term Edit

While we're waiting for any other voices to chime in on the proposed change to the guideline, can we agree that "(author)" and "(artist)" aren't sufficient disambiguators for these pages? Both the real and fictional D.C. Fontanas are authors; both the real and the fictional John Eaveses are artists. Disambiguation is supposed to, well, remove ambiguity; these terms don't do that. I suggest "(Incredible Tales author)" and "(Incredible Tales artist)"; it's a bit long, but it's clear, and there won't be many links to these pages. —Josiah Rowe 13:14, July 13, 2010 (UTC)

My short answer would be no, I don't agree. The very presence of a disambiguation in the title should be enough, since all the production people will generally be at a page without a disambiguation in the title.. The revised naming policy also says that all these pages should have a disambiguation link at the top of the page, something that not all of them currently have. This should remove the need for long and/or complicated disambiguation titles, since if you end up at the wrong page, the very first thing you should read would be the link to the page you wanted.
That said, I would be willing to entertain the idea of renaming real-world disambiguation titles to some standard that couldn't be used in-universe, since I believe this would result in the lest amount of moves and changes to the naming policy, as well as clearly marking real-world articles. - Archduk3 13:54, July 13, 2010 (UTC)

We shouldn't require readers to understand our page naming policies in order to find the page they're looking for without confusion. I agree that each page should have a disambiguation page at the top, but the page title also shouldn't make a casual reader scratch his or her head. As for which change would require the fewest page moves and link fixes, changing the disambiguator for the fictional people would require fewer moves than changing undisambiguated pages like D.C. Fontana and John Eaves. The pages of the real world people have many more incoming links than the pages of their fictional namesakes. —Josiah Rowe 14:11, July 13, 2010 (UTC)

If there's a disambiguation link at the top of the article, the average user does not need to understand anything to find the article. Also, the shorter the disambiguation text, the better. -- sulfur 14:13, July 13, 2010 (UTC)

I guess I'm hung up on the notion that a disambiguating title should, well, disambiguate. Yes, the reader will find the correct article in one click. But shouldn't the article title also clearly distinguish it from other articles that might bear the same name?

I know that MA isn't Wikipedia, but on Wikipedia the standards are quite clear: a primary topic gets the plain (undisambiguated) title, and any disambiguating suffix for a secondary article has to be clear enough to distinguish the relevant page (see here for some examples). I think this standard makes sense. Why is short disambiguation that doesn't disambiguate better than long disambiguation which does? —Josiah Rowe 14:22, July 13, 2010 (UTC)

Because, in most cases, the disambiguated-title article will only ever be accessed through either a proper disambiguation page, or the non-disambiguated article which links to it in its header. In both cases, there's typically some few words of explanation, making unnecessary a complex explanation in the disambiguation qualifier (the parenthetical term) itself. I believe it is sufficient if the qualifier is "sensible" - it most often does not need to be a completely unique feature of the article in question - especially if there are just two articles being disambiguated. -- Cid Highwind 21:58, July 14, 2010 (UTC)

I guess that I'm not understanding how a term like "author", which can be applied with equal justification to either page, is considered "sensible". —Josiah Rowe 01:44, July 15, 2010 (UTC)

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