Very many of our questions need a 'place' tag -- events and the production of the associated historical records are frequently linked to one or a few specific places and can't be answered without knowing the locality. For example, Finding death records for family members? cannot be usefully answered, other than by producing a laundry-list of answers for places all over the world -- or preferably, by identifying which place is being asked about. (Of course, we also have questions that don't need a geography-tag but those aren't being discussed here.)
In what follows I'm assuming that geography tags meet the test of 'mapping what our community is about/not about' -- genealogy anywhere on this planet is in-scope (although it might be more difficult in some places than others); I reserve the right to open a discussion about Martian genealogy if and when the issue arises. It's also unlikely (but not impossible) that a geographic tag can work as the only tag on a question, so I'll not be considering that in any detail.
What I hope we're going to be thinking about:
- using tags 'to organise not summarise', helping people to find questions they can answer and answers that might address their own question
- optimising search engine results that might bring new users to our site
- providing clarity and simplicity so that an OP can easily determine what geographic tag to use for their question, or to filter by to reliably find relevant/related answers
So... What sort of geography-tags do we want to use?
continent? Probably too granular to be of much use, except where there are no countries at all. Antarctica is the only one that springs to mind, but I suppose we could get a question about whether the records for a particular Antarctic expedition survived and where they can be consulted, in case Great-great-uncle Freddie really met his end in the frozen wastes as the family legend says.
country? We definitely have questions where country is very relevant -- looking for Marriage records in England and Wales is a different process to looking for them in Scotland or France, and the information provided in such a record will differ as well (although there may be some things in common). So country tags seem sensible.
But... how to identify the countries? By modern country name germany that should be reasonably static (with some exceptions) ? By historic country name bavaria? united-states versus british-colonial-america? israel versus british-mandate-palestine?
Do we need to take into account if we can the sensitivities that exist around identifying places, particularly with regard to recent history and unresolved conflicts (Is the Crimea in Russia or the Ukraine? Does the answer depend on the question/time period concerned? Shall we just wait and see if a problem arises?).
We also need to consider which approach is simplest for those who may not be steeped in the intricacies of time-based geography. Many of our wikis direct users to use the modern country to include previous political entities, but this isn't consistent -- we don't have israel but we do have british-mandate-palestine. Should we encourage users to tag with both the current and historical name...? Or is that too complicated/too much to expect?
state-or-county? Locating records in individual US States or UK counties can be specific to that jurisdiction (other jurisdictions exist in other countries and should be assumed to be included in this discussion). So there are definitely cases where the answer to a question depend on defining a place more precisely than a country.
But... how do we decide which 'units' to tag for, and how to disambiguate them (e.g. new-york-city and new-york-state). If there could be ambiguity do we ensure that the tag names remove any doubt about which is being used? Or do we assume (for example) 'State' unless the tag says otherwise. And do we need any guidance up front or just handle things on a case-by-case basis?
Combining place tags
How do we/do we want to combine geographic tags (I'm using English examples here).
Do we want to tag only for the smallest possible unit that categorises the question accurately ... so in precedence terms county trumps country? If so, should we consider that, if the answers(s) turn out to be not specific to the County although the OP thought they would be, we should retag the question with the country to make it most widely useful (and edit the question to include the County name if it doesn't already do so)?
Or do we want to tag for both Country and County, in a belt-and-braces approach? Include all of wales glamorgan united-kingdom? Should we also have a england-and-wales where the question relates to those elements of the UK but not Scotland, Northen Ireland and all the other islands. Jersey isn't a country; it isn't part of the UK or Great Britain but is is part of the British Isles. Or do we treat it as a quasi-country for the purposes of tagging? How do we ensure consistentcy so that somebody looking for questions on Northamptonshire doesn't miss relevant questions tagged England?
Over to the assembled masses...