[tz] KyivNotKiev

John Hawkinson jhawk at alum.mit.edu
Thu Nov 26 14:06:54 UTC 2020

MAJOR CHANGE: It's interesting to me how badly we are, as a group, at having these discussions. We do not do a good job of introducing new people to the way we think about these issues, and we do not do a good job of assessing whether the ground under our feet has changed (it has!)

What Andriy's email did not explain is the rather significant change:

On Sept. 16, 2020, Wikipedia finally decided that the time had come and moved its page from Kiev to Kyiv.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Kyiv/Archive_7#Requested_move_28_August_2020
It was summarized with:

| Rough consensus that "Kyiv" is the better title given usage in
| reliable, English-language sources. An extended summary/rationale
| prefaces the discussion. — Wug·a·po·des​ 06:58, 16 September 2020
| (UTC)

That decision was positively reviewed week later at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Move_review/Log/2020_September (you have to click the "show" button).

I'm not an expert in Wikipedia's decision-making processes, but I will say that about a year ago (Oct. 3, 2019), I made this prediction: "Because of its...unique project management challenges, I expect Wikipedia will probably be the last thing to switch. (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Kiev/naming/Archive_14#The_time_has_come:_Welcome_to_Kyiv_on_English_Wikipedia!_#KyivNotKiev). I don't think we should wait that long."

Turns out I was wrong, Wikipedia switched before tz. Wikipedia, also, instituted a moratorium on these discussions; the last one was a year long, and so that's why this one come a year following our previous substantive discussion, after the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal made changes.

So, it is probably time for us to take another look.
I continue to support the change, and I think the objections offered are really just excuses.
We wouldn't excuse an American racist anachronism in our database in the same way; perhaps this is not appropriately comparable, but I think it is not wrong to ask the question as to whether it is.

Specific comments:

Andriy: The tz project has long been aware of this issue, and the project leaders have felt that the English-language concensus remained Kiev, although they were aware of the clear preference of the Ukranian government and citizenry. So the question now is whether the English-language concensus has changed. It's clear that we should be looking at that once again.

Lester Caine: No one with a straight face can pretend that timezone identifiers are opauqe tags right now. And I think very few people could see a way to a transition where they are. In part because US-English-centered developers like working with the names as they are, and change is hard and frustrating and often counterproductive.

David Patte: Enshrining offensive anachronisms by changing our standard to be "if we made a mistake, we will never fix it" is politically unpalatable in almost every part of the world. I would find it politically unpalatable here. We are concerned about churn and "opening the floodgates" so we have made it hard to make changes, for good reason, but a system that is impossible to change is no good either.

I do think it's clear that the major English-language authorities have all switched to Kyiv.
If our process is going to be to claim that we need to wait for the majority of written words to change over (e.g. based on Google search results, N-grams, etc.), I think we are setting an unreasonably high and unattainable target.

Kyiv has marshalled a political campaign to make this happen throughout the world in a way that it's difficult to imagine any other city doing, and it's very hard for me to see why we should substitute our judgement for that of all the authorities, be they formal political ones or simply major news sources and style guides. If this is not enough, what would ever be?

jhawk at alum.mit.edu
John Hawkinson

More information about the tz mailing list