Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 6

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Just some responses:

I have no intention to revert articles wholesale to use any particular style. As I have made quite clear before, however, when I edit an article I will try to bring it in line with whatever the current Manual of Style convention is. As was written here before: "NB: the Manual of Style is not mandatory. However, copyeditors will change entries to match the manual of style".

If we, the community, decide that both styles can be used, in different situations or arbitrarily, then I will obviously respect that decision. I won't like it, of course, so in the meantime, I will try to argue for a solution that favors consistency throughout Wikipedia. As for compromises like automated conversion, I'm willing to use that as well. Let's just agree on what to do and then do it.

James is turning this into a huge British vs. American thing. I don't view it like this at all -- as a German I'm used to writing "22. Juni", not "22 June" or "June 22". But James has clearly demonstrated (thanks!) that the "June 22" variant is vastly preferred within Wikipedia. It is preferred by me also, but I could accept any other variant, so James' suggestion that I am hell bent on "americanising" entries is completely ridiculous. I am, however, very concerned about having Wikipedia look like a professionally edited encyclopedia, with consistent style throughout. The Encyclopedia Britannica has agreed to use the Month Day format -- it's fine with me if we agree to use another format, as long as we agree to use one.

Some UK-English writers have, in the last months, managed to sneak in not through a comunity process but through backdoor discussions, the privilege to use their date style on "their pages". It is one of Wikipedia's biggest virtues that "pages are not owned by anyone." Yet Mav proposes exactly that. Editors will first have to

  1. Check: article has dates in it? Yes: Use that style - No: Proceed
  2. Check: article is about a British subject? Yes: Use British style - No: Proceed
  1. Use "American" style

Any newbie who doesn't get that complicated process and uses what he is used to will find a long, insulting essay on his personal talk page. Not consistently, of course: On some pages the original authors will just not care whatever is used, so any change will go unnoticed. What we get is the situation we have now: The vast majority uses the "American" style, but some articles, both about UK and about non-UK subjects, use a different one for no discernible reason. If you care about the professional look of Wikipedia, this is a prime example of how to look unprofessional. So are the edit wars that will inevitably result.

Mav and others will keep their mouths shut about this because they are afraid to lose valuable contributors. James et al. get their way not because they are right, but because they are louder than everyone else. And of course he's trying to blame me for bringing the issue up again, after he and others have so successfully managed to subvert the open decision making process in favor of a proprietary one.

James has repeatedly asserted (without any evidence, of course), that the world majority prefers the BE style (which, as has been pointed out, is silly anyway, since billions use different calendars altogether). Not only this, he states that "most of the rest of the world finds wiki's pre-occupation with american english, and with americanising anything and everything irritating." Whatever James does, he can always be sure to have "most of the rest of the world" on his side. ;-)

He is not willing to change his position by a millimeter. To tolerate "US"-style dates because British spelling is used in some articles? How could you ask such a terrible thing! He will have nightmares for days because I brought this up.

Well, what "most of the rest of the world" thinks doesn't really matter anyway -- we don't write in Chinese either. And, frankly, James is only one of thousands of Wikipedians. If he can't get his way and leaves because of it, then I will find this very unfortunate, but not very surprising given how easily he gets aggravated. What matters is what most of the contributors to this wiki think, and I am one of them. I have expressed my opinion, you get your chance to express yours. If there are objections to the vote as it is currently set up, I am very much in favor of letting Martin set up a new one.

Always remember: There is no Wikipedia cabal. And the one strategy that would be effective in establishing such a cabal is to let some highly valued long time contributors like James get their way simply through long, loud complaints and threats to leave Wikipedia if everyone else doesn't comply. After all, we never want to lose a contributor. But I'm not willing to drop the established community process because a small clique thinks they can get away with doing so. --Eloquence 16:11 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Having copyedited eight articles in the last hour based on a 1911 Brittanica, I think we have bigger professionalism issues than dates. (Modern) Brittanica uses AE style, because, like many commercial products, the US market is overwhelmingly important to them. I don't see that a free encyclopedia has to addopt US style. You (Eloquence) seem quite blase about losing contributors over such a minor issue, whereas I would rather have more contributors of good quality articles. This is a voluntary activity none of us are paid for, and I think you are losing sight of that in a desire for unbending conformity. jimfbleak 16:23 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
You mean jaded? lysdexia 00:01, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)
The "bigger professionalism issues" is a red herring and the fact that people keep waving it confirms that I am correct: the date style inconsistency is unprofessional. Just because we have deficits in one area doesn't mean we shouldn't fix our deficits in another area. Problems like this tend to accumulate and get worse. We are setting a precedent for segregating Wikipedia into different parts which are governed by different rules. This can cause many, many problems in the long term -- inconsistency only being one of them, confusion and frustration of newbies being another. But as I said, I'm willing to accept whatever solution is favored by most users. --Eloquence 16:41 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Eloquence claimed "Some UK-English writers have, in the last months, managed to sneak in not through a comunity process but through backdoor discussions" - that is absolute rubbish. All edits were carried out openly and with the full agreement of everyone. Such an accusation is an insult to all the many people who in good faith and with no opposition used the format used in most of the world. In 4 months, only Eloquence has seen this as a 'problem' and elevated himself to our edit god, who has decided that, though no-one else has a problem with using the international-used dating system, he has and so he is entitled to ignore the consensus acceptance of using both systems and enforce what he wants.
Regarding the use of 22.Juni - has Eloquence forgotten that this is english wiki, concerned with the use of english, not german?
The Encyclopedia Britannica has agreed to use the Month Day format Britannica is a professionally edited published book written by a small group of paid contributors. Wiki is an international text written by people the world over and so has to accomodate writers from all over the world, many of whom use American english, many of whom don't, many of whom use American dating, many of whom don't. There is no comparison.
I never suggested, nor has anyone else, that everyone be forced to write in BE or use the dating form used by most of the planet. We have had a situation where for months both dating systems have been used. It has been universally accepted and respected by most people. One person has decided that he wants to force all wiki contributors to use one dating system, even though it is actually the system used by a minority of english speakers (a small minority of english speaker worldwide) and as part of his campaign decided to americanise the dating system used in articles on non-american topics. And if he had his way, he would americanise the language too. As I have said, if he wants an american english wiki, he can always create one. But this is english wiki, a wiki in the english language, that belongs or should belong to all english speakers, whereever they live and whatever form of english they use. There are two basic forms of english. Wiki needs to be able (as it has been in recent months openly and honestly) to accept articles in either, using either of the dating systems used. For wiki to order users to use one form is unacceptable, whether the ordered version be one used by the majority of english speakers (BE, dd/mm/yy) or the minority one (AE, mm/dd/yy.). Users of BE have shown courtesy and respect to those who use AE. Users of dd/mm/yy have shown the same respect to users of mm/dd/yy. And most AE users and users of mm/dd/yy have shown the same respect in return. But a small minority haven't and in the case of Eloquence, have attempted to force their preference on everyone else. That is the crux of the problem. All I have advocated is a continuation of the current policy of respecting difference. Mav endorses that. Many others do to. One person doesn't and has caused this row; Eloquence. FearÉIREANN 23:20 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
The problem, James, is that there was an ongoing vote on the subject, and that the vote result did not favor the inconsistent standard which you want to use throughout Wikipedia. Mav argues or has argued that this doesn't matter, and that because the two leading options would both scare off contributors, one of the lower ranking options has to be used. This is, of course, illogical, ignores that the lower ranking options are in themselves divisive because they promote inconsistency, and makes the whole voting exercise pointless.
Pretty much everyone in this discussion admits that this kind of inconsistency looks unprofessional. Some say that it has to be accepted since we're such a big project. I do not agree. We are a big project, true, but this simply means that everyone has to change their habits at least somewhat if consistency is to be maintained.
You are right about one thing: it is quite possible that you would have gotten away with what you were doing if I had not complained. That does not mean that people would not have disagreed, it does not mean that these actions would not have been in violation of our community process, and it does not mean that the outcome would be in any way desirable. You wrote to me in this discussion: "One user (I won't use the language I described him by when I saw it. Suffice to say it cast doubts on the marital status of their parents) a couple of days ago not merely sought to turn an article on an Irish topic into American english, using American spelling and American capitalisation, but even went so far as to americanise my comments on the talk page. (His changes were reverted, and a rather strong message left on his talk page.)" If that is how you approach all users who disagree with your interpretation of the MoS, it's no surprise that few have the patience and motivation to argue with you. Your aggressiveness helps you to get your way most of the time. In this whole discussion you have substituted facts with rhetoric. None of this will work.
The correct way to proceed now is to use the open process to arrive at a conclusion, set a deadline, and then implement whatever is agreed upon. Like any decision we make, it may make some people unhappy, quite probably including myself. But there is no alternative -- subverting the community process and letting a few people push through their preferred style is not an option. --Eloquence 23:50 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Amen to JT's comment; "[Wikipedia] is an international text written by people the world over and so has to accommodate writers from all over the world, many of whom use American english, many of whom don't, many of whom use American dating, many of whom don't. There is no comparison." We cannot force either AE or BE standards down anyone's throats here since we allow anyone to edit any page using there own words (so long as they are in English). We are not a publishing house and our editors are not paid so we can't be too anal about the style of English they use so long as it is correct in some major dialect of English.



I also find it odd that Eloquence is mentioning "unprofessionalism" as a reason to have one style; this is comparing us to a closed shop with editors who are paid to do things in a very specific way (the Cathedral), but Wikipedia is the Bazaar (some would say "bizarre" ;-) where everyone is welcome and where we do not check credentials. A bazaar can never be considered to be a professional enterprise. Sure some shop keepers are professionals in their own areas but they may not be working in those areas while in the bazaar (like me most of the time!). Same is true for Wikipedia.
I do forsee us becoming much larger and a much better and accurate resource in time but unless we make some really drastic changes (like adopting Nupedia's standards and editing process) we will never be professional (at least Wikipedia itself; a separate "Sifter" project with approved static articles could be considered professional). In short, most Wikipedians often work outside their own area of professional expertise because it is fun. That doesn't mean the articles are bad - many are very good - but it does mean that the product cannot objectively be called "professional" no matter how consistent the whole encyclopedia is as a whole. --mav 00:14 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
These are all weak arguments which I have already addressed -- there are no good reasons not to make our style consistent throughout Wikipedia in this instance. --Eloquence 00:19 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Oh that is a real convincing non-reply. --mav
As you said, conciseness is a virtue. :-) There is no point in prolonging this discussion endlessly. Let's just implement the vote result on June 30 and then move on. --Eloquence 00:46 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I suggest a deadline of June 30 for the vote. After that deadline, the option with the most votes will be implemented (Sean Barrett has written a script that allows us to convert all pages to another date format if necessary). Should the laissez faire option or the Month Day, Year option win, no mass conversion will be required. Are there any objections to this? --Eloquence 23:59 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

All of which ignores the plain fact that after extensive discussion, a satisfactory solution was arrived at 4 months ago. It was not broke, so why on earth start "fixing" it? What a waste of time and effort. Tannin 00:13 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
This is incorrect, as I have already explained in my response to James above. --Eloquence 00:19 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Why are you bothering writing conversion scripts? Just write PHP code to automatically convert either <nowiki<month day, year or day month, year</nowiki> to the user's preference, as the page is rendered. I'll do it if no-one else will. Even for someone with my low level of PHP prowess, it's not a hard task. There's no need for special markup, the current format is distinctive enough to avoid false positives. The default rendering could be whatever the result of the vote is. If we vote for "lack of preference" then it will just be displayed as entered. -- Tim Starling 01:48 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Since Eloquence loves professionalism, has he got a time in mind for the 30th June? Votes cast by 9am (by his watch of course!) Can people who don't use American english user nics vote? This whole argument is absurd. As Tannin correctly explained, a satisfactory solution was arrived at 4 months ago. It has worked satisfactorily since then. Users of AE and BE, of american dating and international dating have worked perfectly happily together. Everyone has been able to understand the other's dating system. Nobody has been confused. From Alaska to New South Wales, Scotland to South Africa and further afield, everyone has been able to follow the arrangement, nobody has been treated like second class contributors, ordered to abandon their own form of english and write a form they never use. Good quality articles (and the occasional not so good quality article) have been written. No-one had a problem until Eloquence set himself up as the Wikipedia Language Policeman, there to force his form of dating on the english speaking world, even though the majority of the english speaking world does not use his choice of language.

I am all for professionalism on wiki, for getting names right (as I have shown in my work on the naming conventions), for getting a uniform layout of pages, for getting grammar right. But there is no such thing as right dating, and British english is no more right than American english, American english no more right than British english. But in the wonderful world of wilki, Eloquence wants us to treat one form of english as acceptable, the other as unacceptable, one form of date structure as acceptable, one form as unacceptable. Wiki is not based on such a principle but on the principle of consensus. The consensus was shown in the original vote, in which it was clear that many people wanted dd/mm/yy, many others mm/dd/yy; neither side had anything like a consensus behind the exclusive usd of its version. It has been shown in the comments here, in which the vast majority have been asking the question 'what is wrong with what is being done now?' It has been shown in the working of the current system. There is not a consensus on the use of AE and american dating and all the evidence suggests there never will be. The consensus has been (and however Eloquence might wish it otherwise will continue to be) to respect difference and avoid using exclusive language that tells any bunch of english speakers "yes the language you speak and you write in is correct but we are not allowing you to use in on wikipedia. And indeed such is our determination not to accept your language, we reserve the right even to rewrite what you write on talk pages to suit our approved version." That isn't consensus and it sure as hell isn't democracy. It is simply a regrettable and avoidable form of linguistic apartheid. FearÉIREANN 01:56 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I must say that I find your rants highly amusing, especially the part: "The consensus was shown in the original vote .. ; neither side had anything like a consensus .. There is not a consensus on the use of AE .. The consensus has been .." Of course, this all doesn't beat your original statement that we have a clear and unambiguous 100% consensus (your bold, not mine). And how do you determine such a consensus? By counting heads? No, that would be too trivial. Instead, we let James judge. His finding: "Users of AE and BE, of american dating and international dating have worked perfectly happily together." Wolves and sheep sleeping together, yay! This I call empirical research :-).
Sorry, James, but no matter how big a rhetorical smokescreen you try to create, the simple fact is that the number of votes for one of the compromise options, one of which you are supporting, is/was lower than the number of votes for one of the exclusive options. You and others ignored that result. That's OK, we all make mistakes. Now it's time to correct that mistake. I for one will wait for the outcome of the vote. As a time, I suggest 15:00 UTC. --Eloquence 02:12 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I'm just going to quietly slip in here and say that I endorse the ISO standard method (YYYY-MM-DD). Not only is it completely unambiguous (in the MSB computery sense), but being neither "American" nor "British" I think it sort of sidesteps much of whatever controversy there is. I've been using it exclusively for years, it takes teachers and the like perhaps ten seconds to get used to, and its unambiguousness keeps /me/ from getting confused when I write dates. It can be easily transformed into a 'full' style, such as "2001 September 11", if people feel that "September 11, 2001" and "11 September 2001" are too biased. Phil Bordelon 02:32 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The only problem is that very few people outside of the computer sciences use ISO when writing prose. Nobody would be happy and all current articles would have to be changed. That is why tolerating the two dominant styles is a Good Thing (TM). But there is no compelling reason (other than server performance) to not have the software parse [[Month Day]] or [[Day Month]] any of several different ways based on user settings (whatever style the WikiText is in would be unchanged and the default would work the way things do now and base the display directly on the WikiText). --mav
I understand all of that. While I'd like Wikipedia to be progressive here, I'm also not at all attached to "date format" for anything other than my personal writing (journals and the like.) Whatever standard is chosen, whether American or not, is fine by me, and I'll abide by it; I realize that most people don't like the ISO standard, and there are much better things in this world for me to worry my big head about than date ordering. So I stand by my choice, but won't mind much at all when it doesn't "win." :) As a note, the whole 'dynamic date' thing is cool; for the time being, though, I'd steer clear of dynamic dates, if only because the server is slow enough as is. :/ Phil Bordelon 03:49 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)


That format could also be supported by my proposed PHP addition. -- Tim Starling 02:50 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Phil said:Not only is it completely unambiguous (in the MSB computery sense)

Ahh, so you're a big-endian man. I'm more accustomed to the Intel standard myself. -- Tim Starling 04:13 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I'm not so much a big-endian man (although yes, I prefer big-endian) but, well, it's the way digits work in Arabic numerals, so it's good enough for me. ;) Phil Bordelon 04:16 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

About dynamic dates slowing the server: rendering pages for logged in users already requires loading the user preferences into RAM. The only overhead is the string processing, which should be negligible because the text is already processed character by character in PHP. It should be just a minor modification to the link rendering function. -- Tim Starling 04:42 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Okay, I've written up a proposal. See m:Dynamic dates -- Tim Starling 15:05 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)