While the first three paragraphs are for authors and readers, readers can skip the last three paragraphs.
This is an overview over the structure of the geographical hierarchy on Wikivoyage:
- The world is divided into
Levels can be left out, if they don't make sense. North America is divided into three countries only. So there are no subcontinents in North America. The European country of Andorra has an area of only some square kilometres. It would be ridiculous to divide it into different regions.
Continents are the biggest parts of our Earth. Asia Africa, North America ... are the top level of our hierarchy. This zoning is so oversimplified, that only some general travel information are necessary. Its rather used to provide a structure scheme for the lower levels of our hierarchy.
A subcontinent (a kind of super-region in our terms) is the zoning of a continent into logical parts. Typical examples are Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. Sometimes subcontinents are not necessary or correspond to national boundaries. One example may be North America. It is divided into Canada, USA and Mexico.
A country is a political territory which is recognized by other countries and international organisations (eg the UN) and defined by political boundaries/borders like Djibouti, France or Guernsey. On this level information about currency, language, culture, etc. are provided.
See also: Specifications for countries
A region is a part of a country with a specific climate or cultural, geographical or administrative characteristics. Most regions are sub-divided into subregions over one or more hierarchical levels by keeping the same structure.
Example: Vietnam can be divided into North Vietnam (Hanoi and vicinity), Central Vietnam (Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang), South Vietnam (Saigon and vicinty) and the Mekong Delta. This is the geographical way of zoning. Next step can be to divide the Mekong Delta into the administrative provinces (An Giang, Bạc Liêu, Bến Tre, Cà Mau, Đồng Tháp, Hậu Giang, Kiên Giang, Long An, Sóc Trăng, Tiền Giang, Trà Vinh and Vĩnh Long)
Sometimes parts of neighbouring countries can be merged to a region, like the Alps.
See also: Specifications for regions
Towns and villages
Towns and villages are the atoms of our hierarchy, the smallest indivisible units. Here we provide details about accommodation, restaurants and attractions to our readers.
See also: Specifications for towns
While towns are our atoms, cities are our molecules. They can be divided into quarters. A town becomes a big city, when there are so many details, that the clearness cant be kept any longer. Metropolitan areas like Los Angeles should be divided in to quarters from the beginning. If a city should be divided in to quarters does not depends on it size only. It also depends on the amount of attractions, restaurants and hotels.
See also: Specifications for cities
Metropolises are big and multifarious, so more than one articles about the town districts are needed. The many detailed information about accommodation, attractions, restaurants can be found is these articles.
See also: Specifications for districts
Administrative zoning is not obligatory
Administrative zonings like provinces and town districts are not always the best solution for dividing a destination. The decision of a government to draw some lines on a map doesn't mean that this hierarchy is useful for travellers as well. Baja California Norte and Baja California Sud are two separate Mexican states. But on Wikivoyage a summarized Baja California or Lower California is more useful.
This is an example that illustrates our hierarchy.
- Asia <continent>
- Australia <continent>
- Africa <continent>
- North America <continent>
- Canada <Country>
- Mexico <Country>
- United States of America <Country>
- New England <Region>
- Great Lakes <Region>
- New York City <Region>
- The South <Region>
- Florida <Region>
- Texas <Region>
- The Southwest <Region>
- The Pacific Northwest <Region>
- California <Region>
- San Diego <City>
- Truckee <City>
- Sacramento <City>
- San Francisco <City>
- The Mission <District>
- The Marina <District>
- Downtown <District>
- Castro Street <District>
What is the geographical hierarchy good for? We do not want to argue about geographical details. This is more a kind of a guideline to organise our work on Wikivoyage. Contributors to new articles always think about the same points. About what should i write an article? What facets whould be mentioned and how to write about these aspects? To what articles should be linked? How should the article be structured? At the end you will notice, that a structure that uses a geographical hierarchy can be very useful. And many answers to the questions above will be given automatically.
Let's take a look at Catalonia as an example. An author who is familiar with our geographical hierarchy knows that Catalonia is a region. Every level of our hierarchy has its own specifications. So the author will use the specifications for regions as a basic frame. There is specified what kind of information should be added and at what places they have to be added. Besides that authors are shown, what kind of information should not be added to the article (e.g. currency information. It goes to the country article).
The advantage of this practice is clear. A big part of the work for structuring the articles is obsolete because we can use the structural specifications everytime for every destination. On the other hand our readers can easily discover a region by waling up and down the hierarchy. One important point is taht the links used for the navigation should be at the same place in every article.
But there are some disadvantages as well. Some contributors may feel hemmed in because they can not speard ou their creativity due to these specifications. Ok, they can start writing how they want but sooner or later their articles will be reduced to our established structure. Practically, things are never as bad as they seem. There will always be destinatioans that dont fit to our structure.
One comment: We intentionally used Catalonia as an example. For sure, there are many arguments about the status of Catalonia - concerning it as a seperate country or a part of Spain. We should not discuss about that. We should accept, that Catalonia is de facto a part of Spain and the most traveller will look for it in Spain.
Subdividing geographical regions
Politicall or administrively defined units like countries or cities often advise certain subdivisions. Sometimes there are different ways to subdivide a destination. But sometimes its not that easy to find the necessary borders. Here are some hints:
- The 7±2 rule: The most people can comprehend list of around 5 to 9 items easily. So we should try to cut a geographical unit into around seven subdivisions. Its not a law, just a recommendation. Sometimes you have to create article names that do not make the comprehension easier. Maybe you can ask other contributors to find an easy to handle structure.
- Traditional definitions: Some regions, continental subdivisions or boroughs have traditional names, e.g. the Benelux countries or the Lake district. We should try to follow these common structures because our readers do the same already.
- Political subdivisions: Some countries are subdivided into counties, cantons, states, provinces or something similar. These borders are very helpful and mostly used in Wikivoyage. Besides you should have eye on our 7±2 rule. Dividing Mexiko into 32 states directly is not recommended. An additional level is recommended here.
- Linguistical and cultural definitions: Some countries have quite clear linguistic or ethnic borders. The Switzerland can be divided into French, German and Italian spoken regions. The fact, that there are some Rhaeto-Romanic spoken destinations, can fall by the wayside.
Sometimes its a kind of mystic high arts to find the subdivisions of geographical units. We can not please everybody but should try to reach a consensus.
How to do it?
Nowadays many websites use a breadcrumb navigation, we either. Like the well known breadcrumbs in the fairy tale „Hänsel und Gretel“ you can use it to find the way back in the geaographical hierarchy. In Wikivoyage we have a self-made feature to create this navigation - the Location database. All articles have an article of a higher hierarchy level assigned (the so called „IsIn“) - exceptionally one - the Earth. This is the tip of our hierarchy ... as long we are a pre-warp-civilisation. That means Hanover IsIn Lower Saxony IsIn Germany IsIn Central Europe IsIn Europe IsIn THE WORLD (simply called Index travel guide, cause the Earth has no own article)
Basically we should try to find subdivisions that do not overlap each other. Its easier to comprehend the article structure, if every article has one „parent“ article. So its quite clear where the reader can find the general information about a destination. Besides its easier to show subdivisions in our maps.
But we can not live without exceptions. Its really useless to shred the Lake Constance into Lake Constance (Germany), Lake Constance (Switzerland) and Lake Constance (Austria).
Occasionally there are well-known units that overlap with other regions. So its not easy to integrate a destination into one of these regions. The town of Konstanz is situated at the Lake Constance as well as in Baden (Region)|Baden. Both integrations do make sense. In these cases we can introduce an alternative hierarchical level.
The main hierarchy is registered as primary IstIn in the location database. Only one primary IstIn is possible. Besides an unlimited amount of secondary IstIns are possible. They are shown directly beyond under the breadcrumb navigation.