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I noticed that in the profile there is a location field, but not a nationality one.

For instance I live in Chicago but I'm from Italy.

I foresee answers/comments along the lines: Instead of asking why it is not there, ask yourself why should it be, so I'll try to anticipate some of them.

  • for the same reason age and location fields are there. I like to know more about a person when I look at their profile: age tells me something. Location too. Nationality adds extra information on top of it. Knowing that a person is from a country and now lives in another, gives me information about their cultural background.

  • statistical purposes. You know that most SO users are from the US, but what you actually know is that most SO users live in the US, like myself. Nationality provides extra statistical information, which might be useful. (Ok, probably most SO users are also born and raised in the US, but you get the point)

So my question is whether the choice of including location, but not nationality is a well-thought design choice and - if so - what's the rationale behind it.

Are there downsides/implications I didn't consider? Are the upsides I highlighted not relevant enough to SO for going through the hassle of adding an extra profile field? Is Location more relevant than Nationality?

Before you reach for the downvote/disagree button, I'd like to make clear this is not a feature request, rather just a curiosity about what are the criteria behind the selection of profile fields.

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    Put the info in your "About me" section? – Bart Nov 16 '13 at 20:26
  • @Bart I could, but I'm not asking: *How can I let the world know I'm Italian?" (my name betrays me already, by the way). Also that wouldn't help for the statistical purpose. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:28
  • For instance this query would return the top users who live in Turkey, as opposed to the top Turkish users. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:30
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    And even that is flawed, given that those are only the users who state so. I wonder if it's really all that relevant. And what about those users who say "but I'm half American, half Russian". I guess this just get a meh-vote from me. (+0) ;) – Bart Nov 16 '13 at 20:32
  • @Bart I see, you don't consider the upsides relevant enough, which is understandable. So you think it's not there since it's not needed, then - on the same philosophy - I wonder why the location is there? Is it more relevant than nationality? – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:47
  • I don't see the point either. If I want to know somebody's nationality, I'll either check out their blog/bio/website, or ask them. This doesn't feel like info that is relevant for Stack Overflow. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Nov 16 '13 at 20:47
  • @probablyPekka I understand. Then why include the location? – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:48
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    @GabrielePetronella No idea what the motivation was to put it there. But if they would decide to remove it, I would not object. I can still always provide it in my general profile. – Bart Nov 16 '13 at 20:48
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    Location feels more relevant to me - it tells you what timezone a person is in, for example, and gives you a sense of where they are at the moment, something I appreciate knowing when communicating on the 'net even though it doesn't really matter. It also gives you an idea what their native language is. Even though there will be false positives in cases of immigration - if you have a "Peter Smith" in Indianapolis, it's very likely he's a native English speaker. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Nov 16 '13 at 20:48
  • @probablyPekka good point, thank you. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:49
  • @probablyPekka concerning the native language I would argue that nationality is more relevant than location. Most users are not called Peter Smith, but rather something like Pekka, and it's not exactly obvious whether they happen to live in Philadelphia or they are originally from there (even though evidence is stacking up). – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:56
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    That's true (I usually live in Germany, grew up there, but was born in Finland, but am thinking about moving to the US permanently - I agree that's hard to infer from the profile :). Still, all that feels like "soft info" to me - the kind of stuff that should be in the "about me" section or on your own web site. SO is so minimalistic in what it wants to know from you, this would feel like a break with that tradition – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Nov 16 '13 at 20:58
  • @probablyPekka sorry for being pedantic, but then why show the age? I mean, I like the minimalistic approach, so I'd like to reason about what makes a piece of information worth to be in the profile section. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 20:59
  • @Gabriele I guess what is essential here and what isn't is very much subjective. Still, what they are asking for at the moment feels right to me - it's relevant info for communicating with a person. If someone is 12 I will take that into account if there's trouble; if someone is 55 I won't call them "dude" and tread more carefully than with a 30-year-old; etc. Remember what people used to ask on bulletin boards and chats when you entered a room or a conversation - A/S/L? Age, sex, location. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Nov 16 '13 at 21:20
  • @probablyPekka, I see, well I still think nationality would add something, but it's probably not so crucial to bother adding it. As a side note, I really wish people would answer this question telling me: I think adding it wouldn't benefit anyone, rather than downvoting my question. I understand downvotes on meta can express disagreement, but I don't see how one could disagree with a question like mine... I'm not proposing anything, just asking :) – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 21:27
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Ask yourself this:

  1. Will knowing someone's nationality help you answer their question better? It really shouldn't matter, except maybe in the "English as a Second Language" sense.

  2. Is it possible that knowing nationality might prejudice someone's question, even unintentionally?

All in all, I don't see the value added by making this a system feature. We don't judge folks by any of their personal characteristics, only the quality of their questions and answers and their general posture of interacting with the community.

If you really want someone to know what your nationality is, it's perfectly fine to put that in your profile page.

  • 1
    Thank for the answer. Good questions I should ask myself indeed. Couldn't that be the case that age is questionable too then? I don't see how the age of a person can make me answer a question better and also I think it might lead to prejudice too. Also nationality could be a nice addition for language websites (not only ELL) – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 22:32
  • Age has a legal precedent; users must be 13 or over to use SE sites. – Robert Harvey Nov 16 '13 at 22:33
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    That implies it must be asked, not that it has to be displayed. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 22:35
  • Just sayin'.... – Robert Harvey Nov 16 '13 at 22:35
  • What I mean is: I can think of downsides and upsides, but I still don't see a criterion. – Gabriele Petronella Nov 16 '13 at 22:36
  • Perhaps it was a group of people who sat around a conference table and threw together a collection of fields that looked good. I can say that seldom, if ever, has a website I've been registering for asked me my nationality. I would frankly find that none of their business. – Robert Harvey Nov 16 '13 at 22:38

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