Disambiguation guidelines

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What are people’s thoughts on the use of disambiguation. My interpretation is that it is to differentiate artists etc with the same name, Editors adding entries which are unique. Are also adding sometimes lengthy disambiguation, often without edit notes. Correcting some of these entries with reasons for doing so has resulted in a few negative comments

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I suggest you do a search on the forum for “disambiguation”, as this has come up a few times. For instance:


Thanks for the reply will do that

And this one is about bogus-or-not-bogus artist disambiguation comments:


What is the difference between giving someone an informed choice between:

  • [artist A] and [artist B]
  • [artist A] and [artist B who doesn’t exist in MB yet]

I just don’t see the benefit in waiting until there’s heaps of artists mashed together, and then sorting it out and disambiguating.

I spend a lot of time un-mashing artists as it is, so now I will always disambig. It doesn’t always stop people matching their euro-dance releases to a “New Zealand metal” artist but every little bit helps.


makes absolute sense to me.

Disambiguations add a lot of clutter, so I use them sparingly and always make them as short as possible. MB’s interface should really do a better job offering context in searches to make them obsolete (or at least as obsolete as possible so that they rarely need to be used).


I tend to agree with that nowhere on the guidelines does it say add a disambiguation comment to every edit. I do appreciate the other side to some extend as sometimes a wrong artist will be used but i would imagine these are few and far between.

The issue imo is it being used to add information which can be added elsewhere often added without edit notes forcing the voter to spend time investigating the edit

Agreed that long disambiguations add a lot of clutter :slight_smile: For now, I find having “American cellist” as a disambiguation very useful so that I don’t have to click through and go to the relationships tab every time I want to check I’m picking the right artist though. And that kind of disambiguation is usually short enough not to be a problem either. I would expect these are less needed for bands that have slightly original names (but are very needed for bands with unoriginal names, see Void…)


Yes, but ideally the interface should display things like country (which has it’s own field for every artist) and most-used relationship (which could be inferred on the fly), which would make that kind of disambiguation unnecessary. That approach has the benefit of being translatable too, while disambiguations aren’t.

Maybe if the “convert to react” saga is ever finished, MB can see some proper development on that front?

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but we’re also discussing separate issues as if they are one -

  1. unneeded disambiguation because an artist has a unique name
    is not the same as
  2. excessively long disambiguation,
    all of which are unrelated to
  3. an editor not leaving an edit note causing you to search an artist’s history to make sure it is correct

Quite common for me (e.g. yesterday).

To @justcheckingitout’s point above, crazy long disambigs or lazy editing is of course not okay. Might be worth linking to an example?

My experience is similar to @aerozol’s that they are not nearly as few and far between as I would like, particularly when adding performer relationships. That’s not unexpected as artist names tend to be more unique than the real names that commonly appear in credits.

@mfmeulenbelt’s suggestion of an “auto disambiguation” would be great, but until we have that, anticipating potential collisions is better than picking them apart after the fact.

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It’s often possible to predict with a good chance of success when a artist is likely to have a name collision issue. One word names: probably going to be an issue(unless it’s a really long/odd word)–makes sense to put a disambiguation even if it’s the first artist entered with that name.
Three or more word names – less chance of collision unless it’s a well-known phrase (e.g. “Death From Above” or “Venus In Furs”) Of course, it’s harder to spot well-known phrases when the band name is in a language you don’t know well (you have to be pretty knowledgeable in the cultural references)

Also, if you find yourself with too much free time or a surplus of obsessiveness like I have at times, you can search other sites like Discogs and RateYourMusic and even Google and just add all the musicians you find en-masse (It’s allowed/reasonable to add them with only a link to Discogs / RateYourMusic entry or some kind of bandcamp/descriptive page you found on Google). But coming up with disambiguations for an assortment of bands you never heard of before you just found them on the internet can take some work, especially if they’re styles/genres you’re not familiar with.

As for bad disambiguation notes, I’ve seen a number of instances where someone thought the disambiguation was the place to put a promotional tagline–I think I’ve edited a few to replace disambiguations like “The hottest new rapper in Bulgaria”. One I’ve seen before, but was (and apparently still am) too lazy to fix is:
one of the bands named Conduit

a Canadian alternative rock band, that formed in St. John’s, Newfoundland and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Halifax Pop Explosion of the early 1990s.

this is a rather lengthy disambiguation.
a pending merge (closing in 1 day) will erase it.


I put a concise disambiguation text on every Artist I enter or edit. This typically has country, discipline, maybe genre, and decade, e.g. (“Canadian classical composer c. 2010s”). The reason is that I enter a lot of little-known local musicians with common names, and spend a lot of time trying to sort out if the existing Artist entry of the same name refers to my person or to someone else. If I discover that the other artist is a “British recording engineer c. 1970s” then they are clearly distinct.

Missing or inadequate edit notes is a problem, regardless of the edit.

Disambiguation text which is too long to fit in the list of search results when adding an Artist to a Relationship, should probably be made more concise. The place to put all the other detail about the Artist is in the Annotation.

If you have been getting pushback on edits where you are improving Artist entries by adding disambiguation text, or making the disambiguation more concise, consider posting a forum thread about each specific edit. That will let other editors join the discussion, and consider each edit on its own merits.