Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 41

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Conversions

Manual clearly reads conversions should generally not be removed. Could please someone explain why they should be added? --tasc 17:36, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

Conversions can be helpful to English-speakers not from the same region as the author(s) of an article. For example, Oakland Cemetery located in Atlanta, GA, USA encompasses about 88 acres (common US land area measurement). Someone in the UK might have little concept of what an acre is, so out of consideration for them, the 88 acre figure is also given parenthetically as 35.6 hectares. -- uberpenguin 17:53, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
They should be added because not everyone is familiar with the metric system or vise versa. If an article is written in the metric/SI system only this leaves out a great number of people who do not use the metric system. The reverse is also true if an article is written in U.S. customary measurements. What it barrels down to is that many people do not know what a kilometre is or what mile is. So why add conversions:
  • If this was to come down to just the simple numbers— more English speaking people use or prefer English system of measurements. This is based on the fact that the USA has 67.2% of world's Anglophones. Now add to that the Canadians (who I know many) and British who do not like using the metric system and that's a lot of people. Of course the argument for having both systems would fail in Wikipedia for any other language, but not in the English edition of Wikipedia. This is why an article can not have just the English system or just the metric system—both must be present to help make Wikipedia universal. MJCdetroit 18:13, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
it doesn't make wp universal it does make it ridiculous. Why not include some other wierd units? you know may be someone fill oneself better in those units and not in metric ones. --tasc 18:29, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

And everyone please, i'm not saying that they're not helpful. I completely agree with this manual. I'm just asking why they should be added? --tasc 18:40, 20 March 2006 (UTC)

To make the article more universally accessible to most English speakers. -- uberpenguin 18:42, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
To most English speakers. Could you please give a reference to some research or whatever that majority of English speakers do use non-SI units. --tasc 18:52, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
It's just common sense—but I'll walk you through it. The United States does not use the metric system (contrary to any laws that may be on the books). People in the U.S. are accustom to the English measurement system—miles, feet, acres, gallons, et cetria. According to Wikipedia's article on the English lanuage, the USA accounts for 67.2% of all English speaking people. Therefore, 67.2% of the readers of the English Wikipedia do not use the metric system (SI). Keep in mind that this (67.2%) is just the United States. There are plenty of people in Canada and the United Kingdom that do not think 'metric' and are not fond of the idea of being forced to switch to it (even in a limited role). That being said, it easy to see why there would be a need for adding English measurements to articles that lack them and metric measurements to pages that have only English units. Besides tasc, you are a native Russian speaker, you probably have never used anything except SI units (unless you came to America). Therefore, the idea of two systems of measurement must very difficult for you to understand. Perhaps, Wikipedia in Russian is best suited for you. MJCdetroit 19:33, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
according to that article USA accounts for 67-70 % of native English speaker. Anyway, I'm not saying that non-metric units are useless. The only thing i wanted to point out is that your edits should not be justified by this guideline; your edits are confusing for majority of users, they don't suit to those templates you're adding them. Some of the them seem to me plainly useless. Please, refrain from personal attacks. I prefer decide by my own what to read, and how to contribute. Thanks, --tasc 21:03, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
How are they confusing? Either a person knows square kilometres or they know square miles. Leaving one or the other out maybe confusing for some people. Having both measurements insures universality no matter who reads the article. Your defense of the Israel article is more your point of view than a reasonable arguement. Secondly, you contradict yourself in your last posting. You say that non-metric units are not useless then go on to say that having them in a template is useless. Which is it? Finally, pointing out that you are non-native English speaker and probably have never used non-SI units is not a personal attack. Also, keep in mind that how you contribute affects everyone who reads the English edition of Wikipedia—whether they are in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, or Israel. To take away useful information, that clearly helps many people to comprehend an article better—it's just wrong. MJCdetroit 21:38, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
Anyone who cares to check will note that these units not in template! and the only reason for this is that they're not needed there. Please, I haven't ever said that having conversion in country infobox is usefull. Units usefull there where they are usefull. Most definitely not in that template. You can re-read your previous comment and easily find the place of personal attack, so don't deny it. I don't think that the way you're contributing is highly polite either. Noone is going to take away info, just in those particular places it's never been. --tasc 21:52, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
If I am to follow your logic, then I should go through all the articles that were orginally written with only English measurements and remove any non-English measurements. That just doesn't make any sense. No one benefits by such action. MJCdetroit 23:54, 20 March 2006 (UTC)
A template is just as much a part as an article as the text. If the conversion is useful anywhere - and it is - it is useful in the infobox as well. Rmhermen 00:07, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
This discussion came about due to my adding English measurements to the infobox in the Israel article and tasc's subsequint removal of them (of his last 26 edits to Israel—25 were reverts). I have posed a question on the dissussion page of Israel regarding this edit. Anyone interested should check it out—Tasc, we already know how you feel. Thanks MJCdetroit 03:24, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Well, let's just quickly sum up my opinion on this...

  1. The English system of measurement is an amusing oddity that should be abolished in favour of the SI as soon as possible in the remaining four countries. (Well, if you count Liberia and Myanmar, who will likely switch to SI anyway once they've got their political problems sorted out.)
  2. I don't really like the frequent U.S.-centrism present on the English Wikipedia.
  3. Nonetheless, until the UK and the U.S. finally come to their senses, we probably should both systems in non-scientific articles. I certainly won't easily tolerate curious units based on the length of the arm of some poor five-centuries-deceased king in scientific articles (especially since no English-speaking scientist I've heard of uses the English system in her/his publications), but in articles of general interest, as the ones we're talking about, I grudgingly accept the necessity of having both units given.
    That much for my opinion. —Nightstallion (?) Seen this already? 05:43, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
A lot of the older physicists in the US still use the CGS system. There are no English units for dealing with magnetism and electricity, and subsequently for the entirety of science discussing energy and light. As I replied in that article, I think using US Customary units in territorial areas is kind of silly. No serious discussion of territorial area is ever held using those units, unless you count comparing how many Israels will fit in Alabama. Even American historical/geopolitical texts usually refer to territorial areas of other countries in square kilometers.—Daelin @ 2006–03–21 06:15Z
Simply not true - in America we use acres and square miles even in "serious discussion" - we might make concessions in international conversations. And there are several customary units still in use in science. Not including English measurements in science articles is bizarre - essentially we are saying we will teach you Americans geography, history, etc. in terms you can understand but if you want to learn about science, you first have to learn a "foreign measurement system." Remember that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia for everyone - not a geography encyclopedia for everyone and a science encyclopedia for science literates. Rmhermen 17:27, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
In America yes, but not when discussing other countries, and especially not with people from other countries. I can't imagine with the last territorial survey was done in non-metric units. It must have been before the first world war. There's a very good reason for not including English measurements in science articles. They Don't Exist. There is no English unit for magnetic field strength (T, telsa), for electrical potential (V, volts), for atomic-scale energy (eV, electron volts), or for electrical charge (C, coulomb). Each of those units is defined in terms of meters and kilograms, so whenever you use the equations you will rightly solve for a length in meters, a force in newtons, or a mass in kilograms.—Daelin @ 2006–03–21 18:44Z
Is your revert supposed to mean that discussion is over? Do you understand that don't remove and add are different things? Wikipedia is encyclopedia that anyone can edit, but it's still encylclopedia and ought to have standarts (and follow them). --tasc 17:58, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I think some of you who are missing the point haven't had to go through most of life reconsiling two unit systems. I'm an engineering student in the US and of course all of my work and research and such uses SI units. However, I really have little mental concept of what a kilometer or a square kilometer is. I know roughly what a mile is and how large an acre is, though. There is plenty of valid reason to include the conversion for the benefit of a very large population of readers. I must point out that no lay man would even care to have a serious discussion of territorial area, but the average person from the US would certainly appreciate seeing units that they are familiar with.
Is it really worth all this argument over a tiny parenthetical reference? The real issue to consider is this: what do we stand to gain and lose by these references? We stand to gain added accessibility to a very significant portion of our readers. We stand to lose the space occupied by about ten to twenty characters on a page. Is anybody at all here actually ready to argue that the conversion isn't useful to many readers? If not, the only reason for opposing these inline converstions is because of a personal pet peeve, not concern for the quality and readability of an article. -- uberpenguin 18:12, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
It's not about tiny parenthetical reference. It's about addition to country infobox, which breaking template is a way, 'cause one is not cusotmized for it. And anyway there is such thing as editorial consistency. Could you please provide any reference to persons per sq. mile (population density unit) in any more or less decent source? --tasc 18:22, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
We stand to lose quality by using a unit which is esoteric to a particular measurement in this context. It is not esoteric to a large minority of readers. To me, it is vaguely like saying the energy gap in a germanium semiconductor is 1.1 × 10-19 ft.-lb., instead of 1.0 eV. It's not done, because it's a stupid unit to use in that context. While not quite as fundamental, being a geopolitical definition and not a property of nature, it is similarly an out of place unit. That said, I'm not oppose to non-science article conversions, because I have low expectations of disciplines which do not routinely attack and discard faulty notions. Tasc, the US Census provides population density in dual units.—Daelin @ 2006–03–21 18:44Z
Not that encyclopedias are sources, but both my copy of Britannica and the online copy gives measurements of land area in both unit systems. Even in their article about Israel. -- uberpenguin 18:56, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Just a clarification, I'm only arguing for the merits of adding the conversion in historic and geographic articles. I totally agree that it's silly to use non-SI units in scientific articles since the scientific community now nearly universally uses SI. -- uberpenguin 19:10, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Geography and history are not considered sciences in the USA? Fascinating. — Christoph Päper

yeah, us-centrism is frustrating. do whatever you want. --tasc 19:14, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Sir, this isn't US-centrism, it's the plain and simple fact that a very significant portion, perhaps even the majority, of the readers of English wikipedia just so happen to be from the US and therefore are accustomed to certain units. If this were the Russian language Wikipedia, for instance, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. -- uberpenguin 19:29, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
you do understand words encyclopedia and editorial consistency, don't you? --tasc 19:34, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I don't think that this is a U.S. centrism thing. I live right across the border from Canada. I know many Canadians who do not use or think 'metric'. The U.K. still uses miles and yards to measure distances on the roads. I have read stories about metric-martyrs in the United Kingdom, so I know there are people there you do not 'think' in terms of metric units. Now add the United States and that is a lot of people who do not 'think' metric. Also, I know a few Americans who have lived in Israel. Upon they're return from Israel they lectured about Israel and still thought in terms of square miles. These are Ph.D's am talking about that don't think metric.
The original question remains: Why English units should be added to articles (if not already there)? It all goes back to familiarity. Many parts of the United States were set up on a square mile basis. For example, any local 5th grade student can tell you that it is one mile for 8 Mile Road to 9 Mile Road and one mile from Coolidge to Greenfield Road, thus forming a square mile. They probably have never heard the term square kilometer before; let alone can visualize what one is. Land in the United States is legally described in terms of U.S. Customary Units (Public Land Survey System). Townships are 36 square miles. Football fields are 100 yards long. News reports almost never use the metric system—unless they are talking about the latest seizure of cocaine. My point is that the metric system is truly foreign to most people in the United States and in order to make the article more universal for all—they should be included—just as metric values should be shown for our friends elsewhere in the world. Oh, and just to clarify that I didn't just walk out of the cotton field yesterday— I am a scientist by trade and I do use the metric system everyday (along with the U.S. Customary system). MJCdetroit 20:36, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
No, it’s not really US centrism, but the whole mess is a very Anglo-American thing, probably caused by an overdose of power and a lack of enlightenment. — Christoph Päper
Paper, Thanks for your eloquent unbiased contribution in this discussion. Everyone here is now better off for having read it. I can't speak for everyone, but wow—after such strong persuasive points. I'm done. What more is there to say... other than "Wikipedia articles are intended for people anywhere in the world. Try to make articles simple to read and translate"...(first line of the MOSNUM section 4).—MJCdetroit 01:27, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Year truncation

Here is what I want to change for the truncation. The original bulleted paragraph will be broken in two:

  • Do not use two digits to express a year in a date range such as "2000–05" (the same for BC). The date is ambiguous because it resembles the ISO format for "May 2000". It also prevents text searching by people looking for events that ended in a particular year. The truncated format was designed for use in paper publications to save space.
  • Use four digits for years and decades after AD 999 (the same for BC). Using the less formal two-digit form for a decade is acceptable when not ambiguous; for example, when referring to the decade of the 20th century known as "the eighties", use "1980s" or, less often, "the '80s", not just "80s".

--Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 23:33, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

  • I don't support this for article text; on the other hand I was the one who introduced discouragement of truncation in article titles (wikipedia:naming conventions (numbers and dates)#Articles on events). I don't think that guideline is generally followed though. So making this a rule for article text is quite redundant IMHO. Example: I think May '68 will still be a standard understandable format for many ages to come (so should not be removed from article text) – even if over time wikipedia may influence public opinion by having the article at May 1968. That article only mentions the usual format "May '68" in some book titles in the Further Reading section (and not in the body of the article): that's not something wikipedia should be proud about, so it may be improved by the time you look at that article. Similarly: I don't think UEFA Champions League 2005-06 a good article title (it should be written not truncated in the article name IMHO, except, of course allowing redirects from the truncated format); and in UEFA articles wikipedians can write "UEFA Champions League 2005-06" as often as they want, as far as I'm concerned. --Francis Schonken 23:40, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
I agree entirely on article titles; there are valid reasons to have a preferred standard fo those. As far as actual article text is concerned, though, the truncated format is preferred at least by the CMS and the MLA (more for reasons of neatness than space, I suspect). I don't think that prohibiting widely-used practices will be helpful here, particularly since searching for truncated dates is not significantly more difficult than searching for full ones (and both can give false positives, so each one must be checked by humans in any case). Kirill Lokshin 23:52, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Remember written text on paper was never intended to be searched with boolean operators. Thats why truncation to save space dis not matter. Also most rules were written before the millenium change. 1996-97 is easy to recognize while 2003-06 is the same as the ISO date month. Also searching for 1786-89, 1886-89, and 1986-89 will give the same if I search for "-89" for an event that ended in 1989. It is ambiguous and sticking to conventions for paper serves no purpose for an electronic encyclopedia --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 00:32, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
If you're doing an actual automated search, it should be easy enough to check for "17**–89", as desired. If you mean searching by hand, context should be sufficient; what are the chances of all three dates ocurring in the same article?
As far as ISO dates are concerned, I don't believe that all-numerical date formats are appropriate for formal writing in any case, at least not in the humanities. Kirill Lokshin 00:53, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

US vs metric

Why don't we work on a standard for display in the same manner that was done for dates. One date is stored and both European and US formats can be display. US vs Metric would involve some coding but there is no reason why both can't be added into the text, but only one is displayed. Both data points can be added into a template and depending which one was chosen to display in the preferences, that one would display. It would be easy to convert every measurement into both units and display the one of choice. Anyone else think it would work? --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 23:42, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Sounds like a good idea, but I hope that it doesn't involve linking the item, as for autoformatted dates (there are several strong reasons that that is undesirable). If someone is going to the trouble of modifying the program for this purpose, I wonder whether a non-breaking space could be automatically inserted between value and unit, if possible, two or three font-sizes smaller than the prevailing font size. That would be much more stylish and slightly easier to read in many cases. Tony 00:38, 22 March 2006 (UTC) PS See the discussion above for instances in which US equivalents would be inappropriate.

The problem is with round numbers: 2000 km could be anywhere from 1500 to 2500 km, whereas 1242.7423844746679392348 miles (nor 1243 miles) is not quite as rounded off --JimWae 01:21, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

I echo Tony's thoughts in that it sounds like a good idea at first but it might be more work than what it's worth. Also, US equivalents are not appropriate in some cases. For example, I don't want to read about drug doses in grains (as opposed to mg) if my preferences are set to English. MJCdetroit 01:44, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

There are solutions, but they involve being more technical than most people would like. For instance, as far as significant digits are concerned, everything could be entered in scientific notation.

{quantity|4.73|10^3|kg,m,s^-2}

I think it would just be better to set a style if we can. Right now,

  • The source's units come first, the other parenthetically.
  • There is disagreement over whether to spell out either unit.
  • There is sentiment that SI should always be stated first, and that SI should always be stated parenthetically.
    For example, in historical articles the "source's units first" rule slows down comprehension, as archaic units (like Parisian pounds, some region's miles) come first.
  • There is disagreement whether US Customary units should be provided at all in many contexts. For example, non-SI units are entirely unknown to all sciences worldwide, and the Olympics events are even titled in metric.
    I want to add that using a single unit system and providing a dual-unit baseline value greatly simplifies the reading of a technical article, over including dual units everywhere. The latter encourages readers to juggle units in their head (useless clutter) while trying to understand the main trust of the article.
  • There is uncertainty as to the notation of non-base US Customary units, such as foot pounds, square inches, and miles per hour. Should our notation emulate SI for consistency, or avoid implying US Customary units are compatible with SI? If we avoid it, what should the standards be?

If we could knock each of these off, we'd have a solid style guide. —Daelin @ 2006–03–22 05:04Z