Wikipedia talk:Date debate

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The following was initially copied and pasted from the Village Pump archive.[1] I do not know why it was archived.

Desiegel has summarized the arguments below at Wikipedia:Date debate.

Please do not just share your thoughts here, but also at the associated Bugzilla bug# 4582 as some developers may look at this page too but some may not. --unforgettableid | talk to me 01:02, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

All pump discussiuon is automatically archived after a fixed time. Any that is of continuing interest gets copied as this thread has been. DES (talk) 20:01, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Creating syntax for date preference formatting that isn't linking[edit]

This has come up in repeated discussions and I think it's important enough that something needs to be done. Currently, the only way to get date preference formatting to work is to link the date. While this works, it has the unsightly side effect of cluttering up a page with unnecessary links. Wikipedia:Make only links relevant to the context is a good guide in this regard. Unfortunately, because of the desire to get date formatting preferences to work, you end up seeing lots of unnecessary links. Let's take the high profile Christmas article. It has over a dozen links to December 25 and all sorts of links to other dates as well. It's ugly and it clutters up the page. Links should only be used when the user would actually have some valid reason to click through and find out about a topic. But I can't think of any reason anyone would need to be able to click through to December 25 a dozen times from the Christmas article. The desire to get dates working with the date preferences formatting is causing our Wikipedia pages to unnecessarily be cluttered with useless links.

Also, keep in mind that the majority of the people browsing or viewing Wikipedia either do not have user accounts or are not logged in, so they are not receiving any kind of benefit from the date preferences formatting. They're only perceiving the negative aspect of it: articles that are way overlinked to irrelevant dates and years.

I am therefore proposing the creation of a new kind of syntax or function in Wiki source that identifies a phrase as a date so that it can be properly formatted without having to have a date be linked. I don't exactly have something in mind, so for now let's just call it <date> and </date>. I'm sure someone else around here can figure out the appropriate way to implement it. With this feature implemented our article could be a lot better. We could link the first occurrence of December 25 on the Christmas page as [[December 25]] because it is conceivable that someone may want to know what else happened on that date, but for subsequent uses of December 25 we would use <date>December 25</date>. This would help to drastically cut down on the number of unnecessary links.

I'd link to point out one more area in which my proposal would be useful: chronological lists. Many, many articles have them, and typically they consist of bulleted lists starting with the date and then a description of what happened on that day. And those dates are always linked for the sole reason of getting the date preferences formatting to work. Wikipedia:Make only links relevant to the context makes it very clear that something should only be linked when it's relevant to the context; a date link is pretty much never relevant to the context as who exactly is going to want to randomly click through and see what else happened on that day in any other number of thousands of years? So what if the first launch of the Ariane rocket occurred on the same day as the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. Who cares? It's not relevant to the context!

One more thing I'd like to add - it's not obvious to me why date preferences formatting was implemented in the fashion it is now. There are two separate issues: linking to other articles and automatically formatting dates. Why the two were conflated as in the current implementation is beyond me. From the current state of matters one thing appears to me: the situation must be fixed. That is all. --Cyde Weys votetalk 21:47, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

Addendum: Please see Talk:Christmas#Snipping extraneous links for relevant discussion. --Cyde Weys votetalk 21:49, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

simple suggestion; ISO format dates (2005-12-25) could just be auto detected. Surpression with some simple sequence (2005-12&dash;25) in the very rare case it's needed. These have the advantage that they are reasonably country neutral and understandable for all when seen in edit mode. Mozzerati 21:56, 25 December 2005 (UTC)
  • So your suggestion is to not have any special formatting but just recognize ISO 8601 dates via some sort of regex, i.e. /\d\d\d\d-\d\d-\d\d/ (yyyy-mm-dd in common English). I'm not sure if this will work. Anonymous users, which describes the majority of the people who use Wikipedia, are always going to be seeing ISO 8601, which isn't necessarily as clear as spelling out the month. It might be possible to detect which country the IP address belongs to and format the dating appropriately, i.e. "December 25, 2005" for Americans and "25 December 2005" for Europeans. But I still think the best solution would be some kind of added syntax. It doesn't seem right that it should be done automatically (and only for ISO dates). Wikipedia as it is is very explicit: words are only linked when you specifically say they should be linked, etc. A lot of this could be done automatically but there is going to be some error rate. A workaround like 2005-12&dash;25 in the

situation where you wouldn't want auto-formatting seems very clumsy. I think the easiest way to resolve this issue is to just create the <date> and </date> tags (or whatever they end up being called). That way as you're editing articles that have too many repetitive linkings you simply convert [[ and ]] to <date> and </date>. You wouldn't have to go around changing all of the dates to match ISO format. --Cyde Weys votetalk 22:10, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

One other interesting thing, having done a lot of work wiht dates, the recieved wisdom "December 25, 2005" for Americans and "25 December 2005" for Europeans/British does not always work by a long chalk. Rich Farmbrough 21:02 25 March 2006 (UTC).

after edit conflict[edit]

(after edit conflict) I strongly support the addition of such a feature. The "simple" suggestion above is a start, but the vast majority of dates are NOT in ISO format, and that format is not the most helpful one for people without any prefernces (which is the majority of users) so i think it is unlikely to become the dominant format any time in the near future. The mechanics of the synmtax don't matter to me -- it could be pesudo-HTML as shown above or soem more wiki-like markup such as <<5 March 2003>>. Ideally, whatever methos is used, it would involve a single markup for each complete date. DES (talk) 22:13, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

Please see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers) and Wikipedia Talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers) for more related discussions. DES (talk) 00:12, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

Someone tell me why we should add new syntax to the parser to replace something that is intuitive and works already, just because it's "ugly". rspeer / ɹəədsɹ 04:56, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

It's intuitive to you because you've 'grown up' learning how to do it that way. If you had learned to enclose dates in #12/25/2005#, do you really think it would be all that much harder to figure out? Some of us have a problem with overdetermining the bracket syntax. -- nae'blis (talk) 09:35, 26 December 2005 (UTC)
  • There's absolutely nothing intuitive about it. Most new users to Wikipedia get very confused by this. Why should you have to turn a date into a link to get it to format properly? That's actually very counter-intuitive. And guess what, something being ugly is a very good reason to change it, especially because Wikipedia is a resource used by millions of people. --Cyde Weys votetalk 15:58, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Strong support; I've been meaning to propose this myself. I also strongly support auto-parsing yyyy-mm-dd syntax. The default date format can be something other than yyyy-mm-dd. Other possibilities like {{yyyy-mm-dd}} or {yyyy-mm-dd}.

Related date gripes/suggestions:

  • Signature timestamps should obey date locales.
  • This is probably assumed by the <date></date> proposal: [[December 25, 2005]] should work like [[December 25]], [[2005]].
  • Group linked yyyy-mm-dd dates by yyyy-mm in addition to mm-dd
  • Format any date such as year-month or just year in addition to year-month-date
    • e.g. <date>December 2005</date> should show up as 2005-12 in ISO8601 locales.
    • e.g. <date>567 AD</date> should show up as "0567" in ISO8601 locales.
  • Dates in various article names/categories would be better as yyyy-mm-dd or yyyy-mm instead of spelled-out or American "middle-endian" style (e.g. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Log/2005-12-26, Category:Cleanup from 2005-12)

--Quarl 10:18, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

clear evidence why something really needs to be done on this issue[edit]

This edit gives clear evidence why something really needs to be done on this issue. Look at how ridiculous it is to create literally dozens of unnecessary links on a page just to get date preferences formatting working. Some sort of syntax like <date> and </date>, discussed above, is absolutely essential. --Cyde Weys votetalk 20:23, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Looking into this one now. :) Rob Church Talk 20:23, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
  • Excellent! I am very much looking forward to this one. --Cyde Weys votetalk 21:51, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Just wondering how this is going. Hope it's going well. --Cyde Weys votetalk 01:06, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia Bugzilla[edit]

Someone said this same kind of proposal is somewhere on the Wikipedia Bugzilla but I have been unable to find it with relevant search terms. Can anyone confirm? Thanks. --Cyde Weys votetalk 19:30, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Now enter3ed as bugzilla bug #4582. DES (talk) 21:21, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
That bug was marked WONTFIX, although I am tempted to reopen it. I'll probably do so as I'm implementing it, which will be...whenever, I'm afraid. I've been distracted from development by a number of things; but should be back on track within a few days. Rob Church (talk) 19:02, 14 January 2006 (UTC)


I think that <date> and </date> is a little too bulky, but otherwise yes — using the same syntax for two things is very bad practice. I would introduce a new, and simpler, syntax that could be used for user-preferred formatting of things other than dates. My suggestion:

 <<January 13>>           produces  13 January                       formatted by user prefs
 <<2000-01-13>>           produces  13 January 2000                           ditto
 <<2000>>                 produces  2000                                      ditto*
 <<12 BC>>                produces  12 BCE                                    ditto*
 [[<<January 13>>]]       produces  [[13 January]]                            ditto
 [[<<January 13, 2000>>]] produces  [[13 January]], [[2000]]                  ditto
 <<1000 kg>>              produces  2400 pounds (1000 kg)                     ditto*
 [[<<1000 kg>>]]          produces  2400 [[pound]]s (1000 [[kilogramme|kg]])  ditto*

Note *: I'm assuming that in the future, user prefs might be extended. For example, there might be a user pref for BCE/CE versus BC/AD in years, for currency and units formatting, etc. So you could choose to have "1000 kg" presented as "1000 kg", or "2400 pounds", or "2400 pounds (1000 kg)", etc.

Thoughts? — Johantheghost 13:04, 16 January 2006 (UTC)

I like that idea, I was actually thinking of using double angle brackets originally (it's parallel to [[ and ]]), but I was worrying if it might throw people off, so I went with the universally understood pseudo-HTML code. --Cyde Weys 2M-VOTE 02:02, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

It's not so much the syntax, as the idea that by not saying "date", we can use the same feature for more generic user-preferred formatting (in the longer term; it wouldn't have to be implemented all at once). — Johan the Ghost seance 11:51, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
I have serious doubts about the ability of the software to guess the meaning of an untagged quantity and then being able to convert it accurately. What are you going to do about <<10' 6">>? Is it a geographic coordinate in need of conversion to radians? Or a time reference (10 minutes and 6 seconds) that should be converted to a real number (10.1 minutes)? Or a distance (10 feet 6 inches) that should be converted to 3.2004 meters? Of course, we could have "namespaces" á la [[Talk:...]], but that's just likely to lead to monstrosities like <<Distance:10' 6"|10' 6">>. After all, we already have [[User:RossPatterson|RossPatterson]] right here: RossPatterson 04:02, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
That said, I strongly support the idea of preference-formatted dates that aren't wiki-links, which is where all this started. I'd really hate to see such a much-needed facility get bogged down by an attempt to make it too general. The WP software already handles date and time preferences, and doesn't handle any other textual reformatting (math preferences are a different thing altogether), so I'd recommend leaving the general form alone until there's something else to "preferentialize". RossPatterson 04:02, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
For dates, this seems like a great idea. If we have a locale feature for dates, it should of course support unlinked dates. For unit conversions, this is only good if you can provide the number of significant digits to be used. For example, 1000 kg should usually be converted to 2200 pounds, but 999.95 kg to 2204.51 pounds. Automatic conversion that gives a wrong number of significant digits is misleading, see WP:MOSNUM#Units. Kusma (討論) 23:49, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
I think unit conversion (i.e. kilograms and pounds) is not nearly as necessary as these proposed changes. Overloading of the linking syntax to mean two separate things is a pretty big problem right now. --Cyde Weys 21:14, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
I strongly support some kind of action on this subject. My user preferences are set to yyyy-mm-dd and it is so frustrating seeing dates not in that format mixed in with links that are. Additionally we need to review date ranges such as [[December 25]] - 26 or December 25 - 26.
For those unsure how the various options currently are displayed (EG me), I have listed a few variants below to see what your preferences do to the display (The third section in each is what I see with my ISO preference - links shown as italics.) -
      • [[December 25]], [[2005]] - [[December 31]].
        December 25, 2005 - December 31.             2005-12-25 - December 31.
      • December 25, 2005 - December 31.
        December 25, 2005 - December 31.             December 25, 2005 - December 31.
      • [[25 December]] [[2005]] - [[31 December]].
        25 December 2005 - 31 December.           < > 2005-12-25 - 31 December.
      • 25 December 2005 - 31 December.
        25 December 2005 - 31 December.             25 December 2005 - 31 December.
      • [[December 25]] - [[December 31|31]].
        December 25 - 31.             December 25 - 31.
      • [[December 25]] - 31.
        December 25 - 31.             December 25 - 31.
      • December 25 - 31.
        December 25 - 31.             December 25 - 31.
      • [[March 2005]] - [[June 2005]].
        March 2005 - June 2005.             March 2005 - June 2005.
      • March 2005 - June 2005.
        March 2005 - June 2005.             March 2005 - June 2005.
      • [[March 2005]] - [[June 2005|June]].
        March 2005 - June.             March 2005 - June.
      • March 2005 - June.
        March 2005 - June.             March 2005 - June.
-- SGBailey 12:03, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Another thought: The User Preference could specify not only the date format, but whether to linkify the date. Folks who dont' like the clutter of linked dates can display them as plain text, others can display them as links (new word: a 'preflink'). I'd probably want a different color for a preflink, or maybe a background color. --Bob 08:08, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Strong Support I was not sure where to place my vote, so please forgive me if this isn't the right place. I just want to say that I am completely fed up with seeing people wikilink dates for no reason! Ugh! Please, something needs to be done, for the love of God. I'm willing to help this project (if it's still alive) in any way I can. --Mad Max 08:05, 18 June 2006 (UTC)

Unit conversion[edit]

I like this << >> syntax. I'd like to comment that significant digits should not be difficult to handle; there are unambiguous ways to specify the number of digits that are significant. Commonly, if there's no decimal point, trailing zeros are not significant, while all digits (except, of course, leading zeros) are significant if there is a decimal point. Thus:

Wiki syntax Imperial units preference
<<1000 kg>> 2000 lb
<<1000. kg>> 2205 lb
<<1000.0 kg>> 2204.6 lb
<<1.0e3 kg>> 2.2×103 lb

The last may be a little awkward, but it is a contrived example. ᓛᖁ♀ 16:42, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Angle brackets won't be acceptable, because in some regions they are used in place of quotation marks to surround quotations. That usage should not be interfered with.--Srleffler 07:51, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
What regions are you talking about? Never have I ever seen anyone using angle brackets instead of quotation marks in English. Do remember that this is the English Wikipedia; we're trying to find a solution that will work for us, not a solution that will work for everybody. --Cyde Weys 08:01, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
Wouldn't any change to the MediaWiki software necessarily impact the non-EN WikiPedias? That said, I believe the French et al. quoters actually use quote-mark characters rather than doubled less-than and greater-than characters (i.e., « and »), just as English quoters use " (double-quote) instead of '' (doubled apostrophes). RossPatterson 03:29, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm in favor of this idea as it would be useful outside of Wikipedia (I stated my reasoning on Bugzilla [2]). I like the <<value>> syntax, but if it is a problem I could be happy wity other another simple syntax. And yes, this would be great for more than just dates. —TheMuuj Talk 01:00, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Does this work prior to 1900?[edit]

I had problems in the Article Schleiz to get the date-formating to work. Agathoclea 19:54, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

I don't see any problems with date preferences in that article. Quarl (talk) 2006-02-17 22:33Z
last diff before change notice the 2 ISO-dates that are red-linked in the History section. I then changed the dates to MONTH dd, yyyy with seperate brackets Agathoclea 22:41, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
I see what you were talking about. Currently, [[1806-10-09]] works, but [[1806-10-9]] does not. I imagine once the new date syntax is implemented, supporting dates such as YYYY-M-D (rather than YYYY-MM-DD) should be easy. Quarl (talk) 2006-04-13 03:32Z
Please read the documentation on ISO 8601. It explicitly requires that two digits be used for the month and the day. If two digits aren't used certain things will break (for instance, lexigraphical sorting will no longer produce chronological results). YYYY-M-D violates ISO 8601 standards and should never be used. It's a good thing it doesn't work with date preferences formatting. --Cyde Weys 03:37, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
I'm well aware of the advantages of YYYY-MM-DD, I have written a long essay on it, and look at my signatures :) (I had to write my own javascript just to get YYYY-MM-DD, because you could only get YYYY-M-D using MediaWiki templates) YYYY-MM-DD is definitely superior to YYYY-M-D, but even YYYY-M-D is superior to the abomination that is MM/DD/YY... so I don't see why it couldn't be recognized if we already know it's a date. Quarl (talk) 2006-04-13 03:42Z
Actually, it should be turned into bright red bold text that says FIX ME and links to ISO 8601. What's the point in having a standard if it's not going to be followed? --Cyde Weys 04:03, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
That is damn annoying even on this talk page. I assume your second sentence is serious though. Common standards-conformance philosophy states be flexible in what you accept, but strict in what you send. I'm not saying MediaWiki should output YYYY-M-D anywhere, just that it could recognize YYYY-M-D on input. Quarl (talk) 2006-04-13 04:53Z
No. Rather show FIX ME. Otherwise a format that is not a standard anywhere for anyone would get copy/pasted and only cause confusion and more developers' time till Judgement Day. If you call a template incorrectly, e.g. {{MyTsupidMitsake|count=999,999}}, you see Template:MyTsupidMitsake and for [[2007-8-9]], [[2007-08-9]], [[2007-8-09]], [[2007-00-00]], [[2007-00-09]], [[2007-08-00]], [[2007-08-32]] etc one already and correctly sees 2007-8-9, 2007-08-9, 2007-8-09, 2007-00-00, 2007-00-09, 2007-08-00, 2007-08-32 (though the recognition of the year in only the latter two samples is a bit bizarre). That is the best way to get it fixed immediately (or at least very soon if the culprit doesn't check his work). For developers: In fact, the current code apparently checks for a NNNN-NN-NN format, checks the YYYY, then checks whether the MM places are a correct month and if so accepts the YYYY as a year, without first having checked the DD as well. That is a bug: anything that is not a valid date, must be assumed to be the title of an article (causing the entire string to be shown as a red link if the article does not exist), as far as developers handling dates should be concerned, they should accept the possiblility of an article named "2007-08-00" (regardless whether present WP naming allows such) on whatever topic it might be (the title of an SF movie introducing a fictive date, some CD track,...). — SomeHuman 18 Aug2007 15:38–15:59 (UTC)

Preferences for geographical coordinates[edit]

This could also implement user-preferences so that coordinates such as 33.924093° N -116.973734° E are displayed like "33°55'27" North, 116°58'25" West" or however the user wants. Quarl (talk) 2006-04-13 03:34Z

Honestly, I really don't think geographical coordinates are used often enough and that enough people care. --Cyde Weys 04:11, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
I don't know, I'm seeing latitudes and longitudes popping up at the top right of a lot of the articles I read lately. Over 9,500 articles use the {{coor d}} template alone, not to mention others that are cloned from it. And as much as I love the metric system, I'll probably never have an intuitive understanding anything other than the degrees/minutes/seconds notation. If there was such a preference, I'd use it. But as I've said at least once above, I oppose any generalized solution that slows down resolution of the date-linking problem. RossPatterson 01:36, 9 June 2006 (UTC)
I don't see why something like <<June 9, 2006>> for dates couldn't be supported as soon as possible, with the intent that other types of values (numbers, units, coordinates, etc.) be supported later. The text inside the angled brackets could be sent to a function that figures out if it's a date, a number, or a unit (but for now just checks for dates). Also, if this means that we need to enter dates as <<2006-06-09>> to ease parsing, then I'm still all for it (as long as that's not the default rendering format). I'm not sure why the link-date support was added without considering adding a new syntax. That seems like a nasty hack that isn't going to work in every case. —TheMuuj Talk 04:05, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

New syntax proposal for differentiating user preferences from hyperlinks[edit]

There does not seem much to have been going on about this subject here. Recently however, the topic came up again on Template talk:Cite web#Unlink and on Wikipedia:Village_pump (policy)#Frivolous Links to Date / Year. Earlier, the Pump mentioned this Wikipedia:Date debate as where a discussion was supposed to go on, and a proposal at BugZilla bug# 4582. I would rather subscribe the "Comment #35 From Tony Souter" on 2006-12-16 there, but find no comments after 2007-01-09.
At the Pump and on the Cite web talk pages (on both: the two should be read as they complement each other!), I suggested a specific naming convention for articles on full dates and articles on the days of the year. More importantly, I argumented why the (default or user defined) rendering of a date format should be differentiated from the hyperlink to a date-article (for which there appears a general consensus) and why a particular method is to be preferred and I proposed a new syntax and a practical way allowing an easy transition to what a considerable majority of contributors will appreciate.
SomeHuman 18 Aug2007 14:55 (UTC)

Could someone tell me if there is anything happening with this issue? Reading Bug 4582 it looks like the <date> extension was implemented but it hasn't made it into Wikipedia. Thanks, PatLeahy (talk) 22:26, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
There's been significant activity at Bugzilla 4582 recently. Tony (talk) 15:42, 4 January 2008 (UTC)