While Persondata has its uses, it has some limitations, particularly when compared to microformats, such as the hCard microformat emitted by our biographical Infoboxes:

  • Persondata is hidden from editors. This means that they often overlook it when updating pages. Persondata which is out of sync with article text is then not apparent to readers.
    • This example of erroneous persondata persisted from January 21012 until 2015.
  • It is at the end of the article, but repeats information often found in the lede/ infobox; editors who do a section edit on the lede - including very experienced editors - forget to update it.
  • The purpose of the persondata template is non-obvious and adds an additional and unnecessary barrier to new editors
  • It is apparently not reviewed as part of good article/ FAC processes (do correct me, on my talk page, with a citation, if I'm wrong).
  • It is limited in scope. Persondata has birth and death dates and places, names and a description. The hCard has these, plus many more, such as honorific prefixes and suffixes, categories, etc. All infobox fields are potentially readable via DBpedia.
  • It doesn't handle plural values well, such as when a person is notable for two things. These can be comma separated in persondata ("surgeon, pilot"); but how is a machine to distinguish that from other values with a comma ("Head Teacher, Eton School"). Infoboxes can use list templates like {{plainlist}} or {{flatlist}} to delineate separate items.
  • It conflates two properties: e.g. "SHORT DESCRIPTION = English film director". Infoboxes separate these "|nationality=English"; "|occupation=Film director".
  • Its dates are in prose, and not machine-readable; infoboxes can use {{start date}}, etc., to emit machine-readable dates
  • It's only used for people. We have microformats in infoboxes for people, buildings, settlements, organisations, events (battles, plane crashes, record & book releases, and many more), products (guitars, guns, cars, cameras, computers, etc.), foodstuffs and species, etc.
  • It is specific to Wikipedia, and does not interoperate with tools and services used elsewhere on the web. Our hCards can be exported, for example, as vCards, using generic browser tools or third-party websites
  • Our microformats are understood and used by important partners such as Google and Bing; increasing the visibility of our content
  • Infoboxes, of course, serve the additional and equally important purpose of providing a summary of key points for the benefit of human readers; as confirmed by this study

Update: Since the above was written, we have launched Wikidata, which renders persondata yet more obsolete.

Update 2: Since 26 May 2015, persondata has been deprecated, by this RfC.