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Add pronoun field alongside bio #3211

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clarfon opened this issue May 21, 2017 · 11 comments

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@clarfon
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commented May 21, 2017

It'd be really nice if we could have some sort of explicit pronoun field in profiles. It was suggested before alongside other bio feature requests but all the relevant issues appear to be closed. So, I'll open a dedicated issue for it.

What I was thinking:

  • It would offer checkboxes for a few presets, plus a free text field limited to a small number of characters.
  • The presets would likely be she/her/her, he/him/his, and they/them/their, and could be translated.
  • It would be an optional field, and not checking anything is equivalent to "address by name only."
  • Checking "other" would automatically count as checking "they" on languages that are not the user's language.
  • Languages can interpret "they" as "address by name only" if they don't have a standard-accepted equivalent (for example, French).
  • Languages can choose to interpret "he" and "she" as "they" if they don't have any gendered pronouns.
  • If we choose to interpret not checking any pronouns as not showing anything, we should have a separate checkbox for "name only."

The language for this field would probably be something similar to "address by" rather than "pronouns."

If it's necessary to get users to buy into it, we could probably do what Facebook does and list it as "male/female/other" and then only show the checkboxes if someone selects other, picking he/she for male/female.

Basically what I had in mind was having checkboxes like:

  • he
  • she
  • they
  • other: __________

  • I searched or browsed the repo’s other issues to ensure this is not a duplicate.
  • This bug happens on a tagged release and not on master (If you're a user, don't worry about this).
@Cassolotl

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commented May 21, 2017

What would the pronoun field be for? Would it be for the site to use to correctly gender members, like "so-and-so updated their status"? Or would it be for members to correctly gender each other?

Regarding the "other _________" option... With pronouns in English, in order for computers and people to use the pronouns correctly you need to know all five forms - like, for he/him it's actually he/him/his/his/himself.

  • He is a person
  • This tea is for him
  • This is his tea
  • The tea is his
  • He made tea for himself

In other languages there are different grammar structures, that work differently. Pronouns can have more or less than five forms, that are used in very different ways and interact with verbs differently. Some languages have no gendered pronouns at all, and some have no gender-neutral pronouns. Localisation could be... interesting, and very complex?

If a pronoun field on Mastodon is just so that members can correctly gender each other, and there is an "other" option, I would recommend having a form a bit like this on the "edit profile" page. There would need to be five fields, each with example sentences so that users can know that they're entering the right pronoun in the right box.

screen shot 2017-05-21 at 23 13 13

In English there would also have to be a place to choose whether the verbs should be singular or plural - compare "he is" (singular verbs) and "they are" (plural verbs), for example. Should we say "xey is a happy person" or "xey are a happy person"? (Reminder: This is not the place to discuss whether singular they and other pronoun sets that use plural verbs are "correct" when used for one person. People use them that way, end of.)

That would result in something like "Pronouns: he/him/his/his/himself (singular verbs)" on a profile, which is very logical and complete but also requires some mental gymnastics for a curious user to actually find useful. Most people would not intuitively know how to use "ne/nim/nir/nirs/nimself (singular verbs)" just by reading the five forms presented in this way. So perhaps:

Pronouns: ne/nim/nir/nirs/nimself (singular verbs) [click here to see example sentence]

Example sentence: This is Sam. Ne brought nir favourite book with nim to the book club. Ne put a label it nimself, so everyone knows it's nirs.

(Or something better than that - I'm bad at example sentences!)

~

The starfriends.org pronoun system is spectacular but also probably a lot more complex than is usually needed. Starfriends (the site) needs to use pronouns when talking about members sometimes, and also shows users pronouns in places like in the inbox and on tooltips, so that members can correctly gender each other easily.

~

Edit:

I do an annual survey of nonbinary people, and one of the questions is pronouns, and one of the options is a text box where you can just write whatever. I mention this because when you offer a type-whatever-you-like textbox for pronouns, the results for neopronouns are often very unhelpful for anyone who wants to use those pronoun sets. Here's all the pronoun sets entered beginning with "ne":

  • ne
  • ne/nem/nayr/nayrs/nemself
  • Ne/nem/neir/neirs/neirself
  • ne/nem/neir/neirs/nemself
  • Ne/nem/neir/neirself
  • ne/nem/neirs/nemself
  • Ne/Nem/Ner/Ners/Nemself
  • Ne/Nem/Nir
  • Ne/nem/nir/nemself
  • Ne/nem/nir/nir/nemself
  • Ne/nem/nir/nirs/nemself
  • ne/nem/nir/nirs/nirself
  • Ne/nem/nir/nirs/nirself
  • ne/nem/nir/nirself
  • ne/nem/nyr
  • ne/ner/ner/ners/nerself
  • ne/ner/nis/nis/nerself
  • ne/new/nir/nirs/nemself
  • ne/nim/neirs
  • Ne/nim/nir/hirs/nirself
  • ne/nim/nir/nimself
  • ne/nim/nir/nir/nimself
  • ne/nim/nir/nirs/nimself
  • Ne/nim/nir/nirs/nirself
  • Ne/Nir/Nem
  • ne/nym/nis/nymself
  • ne/nym/nys/nys/nimself
  • ne/nym/nys/nys/nymself

People often don't enter all five forms, or enter all five forms but in an unconventional order, etc.

@clarfon

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commented May 22, 2017

Wow, that's a lot more analysis than I expected. I'm glad. :)

The simplicity of this is mostly because I would rather have something and usually when I suggest these things I'm not 100% sure what people are willing to implement. For the sake of English pronouns, I've actually been trying to come up with a system myself for properly listing pronouns in a programmatic way.

The main purpose of this, I think, would be simply so that users can figure out how to gender others correctly, which is why I figured that "other" would be sufficient, especially if it's language-specific. I figure that someone who uses ne/nem/nir in English for example would be totally fine defaulting to name-only in languages like French. Similarly, if someone uses she/her/her in English, then I would assume that they'd be fine with elle/la in French or 彼女 in Japanese.

I highly doubt that the text on Mastodon will ever be complex enough to require programmatic conjugation of pronouns on a per-user basis, but if that's a likely path, it'd be nice to develop a robust system.

(also on the subject of semi-regular English pronuons, I've found that no more than three words are needed, even though there are actually five conjugations. although there is a slight catch: you can be singular or plural, which affects whether you use "self" or "selves")

@Cassolotl

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commented May 22, 2017

The simplicity of this is mostly because I would rather have something and usually when I suggest these things I'm not 100% sure what people are willing to implement.

I know what you mean. :) I'm not a developer, I mostly hover here to see what new features will happen and report things that annoy me, so I was not really expecting anyone else to comment in the same way as me. I was excited to see two of my favourite things in combination - Mastodon and pronouns/nonbinary things! Most of the time when I ask for pronoun things on websites it is not enthusiastically received, which is sad, because it would make a huge difference to my quality of life. For example, I spend time on Ravelry.com's forums. It's a knitting site, so a LOT of the members are women. A bunch of the women have photos of male celebrities as their avatars too. My avatar is just a doodle of me by my girlfriend. I get she'd a lot. My avatar has my pronouns (they/them) in it, because that was the only way I could find to display my pronouns very obviously. I asked them for a pronouns field even just on profiles, and there was a huge backlash - they don't ask for gender because it's irrelevant and personal, so pronouns (which are public and assumed) are apparently the same thing, said the user base. People are not ready yet, especially user bases that skew a little older than my age.

Anyway! On topic, plz, self.

The main purpose of this, I think, would be simply so that users can figure out how to gender others correctly, which is why I figured that "other" would be sufficient, especially if it's language-specific.

Yeah, I think you're probably right. If it was just a blank text box, and people can write in whatever, they can say "EN: they // FR: il // JP: 彼女" or "switch between he and she" or "any is fine" or whatever. And if someone put something super vague like "ne/nem", everyone would be like o.O, and then politely avoid pronouns for that person because they can't work out how to use nir pronouns correctly, and that's okay! :P Maybe someone would say "can you add the other three parts of your pronouns to the bio? Also, ne is or ne are?"

We're very early in pronoun-stuff. Maybe a plain text field is all we need?

@ghost

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commented May 22, 2017

Wow, that's impressively thorough. Having a pronoun field seems like a good idea because it helps make adding pronouns to one's bio more normal. At the same time I doubt that people will want to go through a whole form for this, even those who are enthusiastic about proper pronoun usage. I think a simple text field would work best.

@Cassolotl

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commented May 22, 2017

At the same time I doubt that people will want to go through a whole form for this, even those who are enthusiastic about proper pronoun usage.

I would really like to find out if this is true!

Anyway, there are good ways of handling this. Starfriends.org, my favourite example, offers you a list based on what other people have entered, with the most common at the top, so 95% of people don't have to fill in a form:

pronouns1

And if you have a new pronoun to add you can go on to the complex form:

pronouns2

You can choose more than one pronoun, you can choose no pronouns, etc. If you're going to do pronouns properly you need to accommodate people with uncommon preferences, like (among others) "use this one and that one interchangeably" or "ask me at the start of our interaction each time, because it varies".

@averageunicorn

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commented May 22, 2017

I'm in favour of a pronoun field, and I would prefer a plain text field over an elaborate version for localisation reasons.

In German, my pronouns are basically "pick any of these 4 (also conjugate them the way you want)", and I know people whos pronoun choice is "any neopronoun is fine, and if that's hard for you, alternate between she and he". Those are hard to input with one simple form, so as long as pronoun fields are only there for users to look at and know which to use, a text box seems most convenient to me. The character limit shouldn't be too low, as some users will want to specify for 3 or more languages.

Additionally, while I'm glad that Mastodon only refers to users by pronoun in one place that I can think of (on profile pages: "You can follow them or interact with them if you have an account anywhere in the fediverse"), should that ever change, I'd be a bit more in favour of more complicated pronoun systems, simply because nobody should have to rely on translators to pick a comfortable default. I don't know if the "you can follow them…" on profiles is part of normal localisation or instance specific, but I've seen it translated both as "him/her" (French) and as "him" (German), and having that, especially the latter, all over Mastodon wouldn't be fun.

edit: Complete sets like "ne/nim/nir/nirs/nimself (singular verbs)" would have to be language specific. In German, actual complete sets don't seem desirable to me, they would look something like "xier/xiem/xien; dier/dies/diem/dien; possessives: xiese/xieser/xieser/xiese, xies/xieses/xiesem/xiesen, xies/xieses/xiesem/xies, xieser/xieses/xiesem/xiesen". That would be nominative/dative/accusative (genitive omitted because rarely used), relative pronouns, and then possessives for when the possession is feminine, masculine, neutral (it) or uses neopronouns themself. Most people who use neopronouns in German never actually work out all those details and would be happy with much fewer forms, but again, standardizing the set might be more confusing than helpful.

@ghost

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commented Jul 8, 2017

If we're going to implement something like this, there should be the option either at a user level or shard level to enable or disable this feature, as there are communities on some shards that either:
A) don't care about a feature like this
B) oppose having to remember hundreds of superfluous pronouns
C) Want this feature

Besides, all of this can be listed in the bio section when you're typing it out. just saying.

Edit: Issue #232 discussed something similar back in Q4 of 2016 already.

@Cassolotl

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commented Jul 12, 2017

I really hope this thread doesn't become an argument about whether people should have pronouns other than he or she. This feature is requested because people have and use pronouns other than he or she and because people feel dysphoric when misgendered, cis people and trans people.

This isn't a discussion about whether it's necessary to list pronouns, it's about whether we should list them in our bios or have the option of a new field just for pronouns - so that it's easy to find them when you go looking.

@tootsuite tootsuite deleted a comment Jul 12, 2017

@tootsuite tootsuite deleted a comment from Cassolotl Jul 12, 2017

@nightpool

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commented Jul 12, 2017

I've deleted two comments in this thread for being offtopic. To quote @Cassolotl:

This isn't a discussion about whether it's necessary to list pronouns, it's about whether we should list them in our bios or have the option of a new field just for pronouns

please make sure to keep the discussion in this repository focused and respectful.

if you want to talk about these comments being deleted, again: don't do it here. message me on mastodon and I will be happy to talk to you about it.

@Gargron

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commented Jul 12, 2017

Mastodon UI does not use gendered pronouns to refer to people, and in situations when it would have to, we can always use the username instead of a pronoun. So it doesn't have to be a machine-readable field and it doesn't need all of these complicated conjugation tables, I can say as much.

@Cassolotl

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commented Jul 12, 2017

in situations when it would have to, we can always use the username instead of a pronoun.

Doesn't it use masculine pronouns on userpages in German? If those could be replaced with usernames and we do have a pronoun field, it can just be a write-in-whatever textbox, that's nice and easy. :) It could even be an admin setting: "pronoun field on user profiles? y/n"

@tootsuite tootsuite deleted a comment Jul 19, 2017

Gargron added a commit that referenced this issue Mar 5, 2018
Add bio fields
- Fix #3211
- Fix #232
- Fix #121
@Gargron Gargron referenced this issue Mar 5, 2018
4 of 4 tasks complete
Gargron added a commit that referenced this issue Apr 10, 2018
Add bio fields
- Fix #3211
- Fix #232
- Fix #121
Gargron added a commit that referenced this issue Apr 12, 2018
Add bio fields
- Fix #3211
- Fix #232
- Fix #121
Gargron added a commit that referenced this issue Apr 14, 2018
Add bio fields (#6645)
* Add bio fields

- Fix #3211
- Fix #232
- Fix #121

* Display bio fields in web UI

* Fix output of links and missing fields

* Federate bio fields over ActivityPub as PropertyValue

* Improve how the fields are stored, add to Edit profile form

* Add rel=me to links in fields

Fix #121
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