The MediaWiki Cite extension allows editors to use
<ref> tags to insert inline citations and other footnotes. This extension also allows for "named references", where the content of the reference is specified only once (as
<ref name="name">content</ref>) somewhere in the page and then used elsewhere using a shortened form (
<ref name="name"/>). Unfortunately, if someone deletes the "parent" ref that contains the actual content, the "child" refs are left orphaned and generate a bold red error in the references of the page. AnomieBOT tries to fix these orphans in two ways.
First, it looks back through the page history to see if content for the orphans can be found there; if so, it copies that content to one of the orphans to make it the new parent.
Sometimes, though, this doesn't work. Most often this is because someone copied a passage including child refs from a different article, and often the victim article wikilinks to the article copied from or vice versa. AnomieBOT thus checks these linked articles for a ref with the same name, and if it finds only one version of the linked ref it will copy the contents. But if the different linked articles use the same name with different contents, the bot cannot determine which one should be used and it asks for help.