Help talk:Footnotes

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(3) Reference lists: multiple use[edit]

This has only one sentence. We could delete the section and just mention somewhere that {{reflist}} can be used several times on the same page. Since |close= is not not needed, don't mention it. Do mention {{reflist-talk}}.--Margin1522 (talk) 01:58, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

|close= is still extant in a number of places, so we need to explain that is is obsolete.
You mean that |close= is still required is placed like {{notelist}}? That's true, but if we tell users that {{reflist}} can be used multiple times, I think they will just expect it to work. Nobody is going to ask why {{reflist}} doesn't need |close= when {{notelist}} does.
Or do you mean that it's still seen in article markup, and people might copy it? --Margin1522 (talk) 16:10, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
|close= is not needed, but is probably still used in a number of places. When an editor encounters the close parameter, we should document that it is no longer needed. --  Gadget850 talk 19:00, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
I moved this up to the section that introduces ref lists. I hope that's OK. I think it may be easier to understand while the explanation is still fresh in the reader's mind. – Margin1522 (talk) 07:41, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

(4) Reference lists: automatically generated[edit]

This is a gruesome list, but I don't think there is any reason why editors need to read it. Just mention somewhere that {{reflist}} is important so DON'T FORGET IT. Perhaps with a small illustration of a == Notes == header followed by a {{reflist}}. Then move everything in this section to the Talk page.--Margin1522 (talk) 01:58, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Help desks etc. often attract threads like this. We need to direct them somewhere that explains what happened. Not to another talk page: they get archived, so it needs to be a reasonably-stable page. --Redrose64 (talk) 07:57, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
I wrote this in direct response to questions on the Help Desk and Village Pump. The implementation of AGRL continues to confound our editors. --  Gadget850 talk 11:30, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, the Village Pump is where I saw it. In fact, that's what prompted these suggestions. I've seen the question myself, especially about Talk pages. But this is a basic How To page. The first (only?) thing it needs to do is explain how to do it right. I can see explaining the first 4 AGRL points of this section, with a special mention of Talk pages. But I think the highly technical stuff is off topic here. We shouldn't have to mention the MediaWiki version, much less send people to bugzilla.
About the frequently asked question, how about adding it to Wikipedia:Village pump (technical)/FAQ? About the bugzilla links, I can't really think of a good place for them. Maybe a permanent subpage somewhere for the definitive answer to these questions, or a public Bugs FAQ. I don't know. But I definitely think a How To page is not the place to talk about buggy behavior by the MediaWiki software. --Margin1522 (talk) 12:30, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Where do we explain why you can't remove the AGRL from talk pages? --  Gadget850 talk 14:07, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
You can. You do so by putting a manual reference list in the appropriate place. Jackmcbarn (talk) 14:33, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Exactly. Actually what I think the first part of this list is doing is saying that it would have been better to include a header and reference list markup at the end of page. I agree 100%, at least as far as en wiki is concerned (what would the header be in French?). But this page is not the place to lobby for a better design in the next version. Users can see what's going on. What we should do here is stress that it's important to close your <ref>...</ref> tags and not forget the reference list markup.
About the second part, I had to read the bug reports to understand it. The problem is when the last </ref> is missing? That is actually a pretty rare case. In general it's easy to forget a </ref> tag, and I think users are used to what happens when they do. As an editor, I recognize it immediately. Once again, I think what we should do here is to stress, always close your <ref>...</ref> tags. --Margin1522 (talk) 16:16, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
A missing </ref> is not that rare (check the Help Desk); there is an error check for it but it does not work for the last set of tags on a page. --  Gadget850 talk 16:21, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── "Just mention somewhere that {{reflist}} is important so DON'T FORGET IT." The problem is that the majority of novice editors do not start by reading this help page— they copy what they see elsewhere until it doesn't work, then we refer them here. We have a series of help pages for Cite errors which all start by referring the editor to this help page. So we need to show how to do it correctly, show the limitations and lead them to advanced help where needed. --  Gadget850 talk 16:49, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Cite errors is a great page. I didn't know it existed. We should link to that. It would be a great place for the missing </ref> error, except that this one doesn't generate an error. Are there others? Maybe errors and trouble deserve a section of their own, entitled something like "Errors and troubleshooting"? --Margin1522 (talk) 02:59, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Its subpages are linked, where appropriate. For example, an unclosed <ref> displays Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page). Try that blue link. --Redrose64 (talk) 09:13, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, Redrose64, your example isn't displaying for me. Are those MediaWiki classes that it's wrapped in? Anyway, you are saying that the appropriate place for links to the error page is an error message? That's fine. What I am saying is that if you are trying to explain to a user how to deal with an error, wouldn't it be better to send them to the error page instead of the How To page?
Maybe I should explain what I'd like to do here. I'd like this page to be less function oriented and more task oriented. I have some experience in documenting complex systems (quite a bit, actually). It's always easier for the engineers to hand over the function specs and say "use this". Which is fine. The reference section of a manual should completely document everything that the system can do. But that's Part II. Part I should be a "How To" guide to accomplishing what the user wants to do. They want to write a footnote. They want separate footnotes for a table. OK, we can explain that. If they run into trouble, they can consult the Troubleshooting section. For technical details, they can read the Release Notes. And so on. We don't have to use this page to explain every function in the system just because the function exists.
This Help page is averaging over 400 views a day. People are coming here on their own to learn how to do footnotes. We should try to make the page as clear and easy to understand as we can. We shouldn't be using it as a catch-all for every detail related to footnotes, like the proper class to use for references in a {{navbox}}. --Margin1522 (talk) 12:16, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
OK, so it doesn't display here without a suitable user pref. But it does show outside of talk space, see Wikipedia:Sandbox. --Redrose64 (talk) 12:28, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
You can transclude the message; see {{broken ref}} for details. --  Gadget850 talk 12:57, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
There are <ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page).
Thanks, that may come in handy. But another example of something that I think should be covered somewhere (but not here, at least not in detail) is references in infoboxes. Those often have spaces for references at the bottom, and often I see those spaces occupied by what looks like [1] [2] . Is that what is supposed to be going on there? If not, then I think the proper style should be explained on a page that is sure (or likely) to be read by infobox authors. --Margin1522 (talk) 18:22, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Do you mean like the [1][2][3] at the bottom of the infobox of NBR 224 and 420 Classes? I did it that way to avoid cluttering the individual infobox rows with refs. Generally speaking though, an infobox should summarise the article, so most (or maybe all) of the infobox content that needs a ref should be refd in the article text. But just as we don't mandate any single ref style, I think that it's something that should be determined on a case-by-case basis. --Redrose64 (talk) 18:53, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Those infoboxes use standard references and you are seeing the footnote markers just like you would in the content.[1][2] There is nothing different from the standard Footnote system. If there are issues, it is usually a problem with the infobox markup. --  Gadget850 talk 18:56, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's what I meant. I thought it looked kind of strange to have footnote markers attached to nothing, but I guess it's OK if you regard them as being attached to the infobox as a whole. I just confirmed that its possible to write it like this. References: [1][2][3] So if I ever write an infobox, that's what I'll do. --Margin1522 (talk) 06:05, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── However, I still think that the AGRL deserves a page of its own. This is not supposed to happen -- it's a puzzling phenomenon caused by an error. If it had a separate page, then we could go into detail about what causes it and how to fix it. When I get some time I'll see if I can draft what such a page might look like. --Margin1522 (talk) 07:06, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

@Gadget850: @Redrose64: I have created a draft Help page for AGRLs. I think it should be easy enough for most editors to follow. I'd appreciate any comments on the content. If possible I'd like to shorten the discussion of AGRLs on this page, and direct readers to the new page for the details. – Margin1522 (talk) 23:52, 13 October 2014 (UTC)
With a little help, I have created the page Help:Automatically generated reference list and linked to it from a shortened section in this article. I hope this will be acceptable to both groups of readers -- those who just want to fix the problem and those who want to understand it. – Margin1522 (talk) 06:54, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

About shortcut hatnotes[edit]

@Redrose64: @Jonesey95: I deleted a couple of these, per WP:Shortcut#Readability, and now I see that they've been restored. I can vouch for the fact that the sentence in Readability is supposed to justify removing hatnotes like this, because I wrote it. I was trying to be diplomatic about it, but that was the intention. The problem is that the top of useful Help pages are being cluttered up by redirects to completely unrelated pages.
I suggested this policy on WT:Hatnote#Redirect hatnotes for shortcuts and WT:Shortcut#Shortcut hatnotes considered harmful, and there were no ojections there. The only comments were supportive, like this is a good idea. If necessary I could add a new item to WP:Hatnote#Examples of improper use, and strengthen the sentence in Readbility to make this clear. If there are objections, could they be raised on one of those talk pages?

This is part of an ongoing project to make Help pages more focused and easier to use. I won't go into that, but there is a legitimate reason for this. Basically, hatnotes are for articles with similar titles. We don't need hatnotes for shortcuts, even if the current page has a shortcut that could conceivably point somewhere else. – Margin1522 (talk) 03:37, 24 October 2014 (UTC)

That's why I changed the templates to {{For}} templates, since that is usually how "you might be looking for..." is often written in hatnotes. The idea is that someone might type WP:FOOT in an attempt to find football-related articles. The hatnote exists to guide that reader to the correct page. Having no hatnote in place is unhelpful. – Jonesey95 (talk) 03:45, 24 October 2014 (UTC)
Sure. But, they might also have a pain in their foot, or be wondering when to use feet vs. meters. Are we supposed to add hatnotes suggesting that they try the medical project or the MOS? And when it comes to "FN", there is no limit to what users might associate with that.
From the guidelines at WP:SHORTCUT and WP:HATNOTE, there are couple of basic principles. 1) When you use a shortcut, you and your readers are both supposed to know what it means. 2) Hatnotes are supposed to be for related articles. And not just related, but related in specific ways, like contains the same words in the title or has a disamb page. There are no disamb pages for shortcuts. If you ask why, I think the reason shows why there should also be no hatnotes for shortcuts.
I'd be happy to continue this discussion, but perhaps it would be better on one of the related Talk pages? – Margin1522 (talk) 05:19, 24 October 2014 (UTC)
If somebody enters WP:FOOT or WP:FN expecting to find something else, they need to be informed where the most likely possibilities (Wikipedia:WikiProject Football and Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard) are really found: we don't want them left wondering. This is why we have hatnotes. A hatnote which says "For the fringe theories noticeboard, see Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard" is better than nothing, but for the person who didn't arrive via WP:FN they may believe the hatnote to be an error, and so remove it. To discourage such removal, we show what that inward link is, hence why we use the {{redirect}} hatnote specifically. See for example the hatnotes at the top of WP:ILL; compare those at H:ILL which don't mention the inward shortcut, since a search for help on Illinois is unlikely. --Redrose64 (talk) 11:13, 24 October 2014 (UTC)
Aren't you assuming that users type shortcuts as a way to discover articles? I submit that this doesn't happen, because it doesn't work. Users discover articles and projects in the usual ways – by seeing them mentioned somewhere, by clicking links, or by typing words in the search box. Nobody thinks to themselves, "Hmm, I wonder if there is a noticeboard for fringe theories. Let's try WP:FN".
Even if someone did try that and failed, it's not like they are lost and need our help. They can always go back to the search box and try typing "WP:FRINGE". As soon as they get to "WP:FRI", a dropdown list appears with the following items: "Wikipedia:Fringe theories", "Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard",... Voila! What could be simpler?
So what these shortcut hatnotes are is a solution to a very rare problem that solves itself almost immediately.
Meanwhile, what about the demerits? The problem with hatnotes is that they are intrusive and distracting. People come to this page wanting to read about footnotes. If instead they are forced to read about the fringe theories noticeboard, it's no wonder that they find that irritating and try to delete it.
If you read through the guideline on hatnotes, the spirit behind it is don't be irritating and don't force yourself on the reader. People are always trying to add information that they think might be helpful or related in some way. The policy is, don't do that. Add the information only when it is really necessary. The only thing the other stuff does is delay readers from getting to the information they want. – Margin1522 (talk) 02:14, 25 October 2014 (UTC)
Boy, I can sure attest to this, Margin1522, and declare that I was both irritated and confused when I landed on this page while searching desperately for information on how to cite the same source multiple times while specifying different pages for each reference but w/o having to post redundant data - and immediately saw a distracting link for "Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard" at the top of the page!
"WP:FN" redirects here. For the fringe theories noticeboard, see Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard.
I was like, "WTF?" and almost abandoned the page because fringe theories have nothing to do with the information I thought I was going to find here.
I just like to read and edit articles, and yet I'm amazed by how difficult some ostensibly more experienced Wikipedia users seem to want to make the process of finding useful information on how best to actually add and edit encyclopaedic content. Redrose64, I can assure you that "a hatnote which says "For the fringe theories noticeboard, see Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard" is absolutely [not] better than nothing", and it defies credulity that you people think that the work of the editor is faciliated by adding distracting links to unrelated material at the top of how-to guides that are already hard enough to find. Azx2 02:53, 3 December 2014 (UTC)

AGRL shortcuts[edit]

The other day an editor added a pair of shortcuts to the new AGRL page. Since Help:Footnotes#Reference lists: automatically generated on this page already has a shortcut (HELP:AGRL), and since all of the AGRL shortcuts should point to the same place, I edited the new shortcuts to point to this page, and added an invisible comment to the effect that these other shortcuts exist. This raises the question of what to do with them. I can see three options.

  1. Leave things as they are, with the other shortcuts mentioned in a comment.
  2. Make the new shortcuts visible in the Shortcuts box.
  3. Edit all AGRL shortcuts to point to the new page, and move the Shortcuts box to the new page.

I am fine with any of these. I think the decision should be up to people who are going to cite the shortcuts, on a help desk or elsewhere. – Margin1522 (talk) 10:53, 24 October 2014 (UTC)

I did the third option, because that page seemed more useful, having the bug info and complete explanation. – Margin1522 (talk) 04:42, 26 November 2014 (UTC)