Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39

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Alt text in images

This debate continues below: #Alt text helps the visually impaired

Now that the Wikimedia software supports alt attributes in images, and the WP:ACCESSIBILITY and WP:ALT guidelines recommend alt text, I propose that the featured article criteria should also mention this, with the following change (insertion underlined):

"Images. It has images that follow the image use policies and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, useful alt text, and acceptable copyright status. Non-free images or media must satisfy the criteria for inclusion of non-free content and be labeled accordingly."

I brought up this proposal earlier, at Wikipedia talk:Featured article criteria #Alt text in images, and it was suggested that I mention the proposal instead on this talk page, which is better-watched. Eubulides (talk) 22:54, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

The problem is... what constitutes useful alt text? And in some cases, wouldn't specifying good alt text verge into OR? We already specify captions, which is the default, as I understand WP:ALT. I'm not against the idea, although I have to admit adding yet another bit of stuff that must be jumped through for images just makes me want to use less images. Ealdgyth - Talk 23:01, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
WP:ALT, the wikilink in the proposed change, describes what constitutes useful alt text. The default alt text is blank—it doesn't default to the caption, as captions and alt text are for different purposes and captions often make for bad alt text. You can check this out by visiting today's featured article Major depressive disorder. Its first illustration Image:Vincent Willem van Gogh 002.jpg has a caption "Vincent van Gogh's 1890 painting At Eternity's Gate" which is not that useful to a blind reader (unless they already know the art work in question, which is highly unlikely). The image's alt text is blank. Its title text is merely "Vincent Willem van Gogh 002.jpg", which is even less useful than the caption. Useful alt text (for the blind, etc.) would be something like "Man dressed in blue and seated in wooden chair, leaning forward with his face buried in his hands." Eubulides (talk) 23:20, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Joys. More stuff to jump through hoops for images. (I know, I know, it's important, but it's already a major hassle to deal with images). HOw in the Heck am I supposed to explain an image like the lead map in Gregorian mission? Or the various family trees there? Ealdgyth - Talk 23:23, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
I really disagree with this. Sure, add alt text if it's useful, but the whole point of images on most articles is that they illustrate aspects that would be hard to explain in text form. For something like Chelsea Bridge, the alt text for most of the images would be as long or longer than the accompanying paragraph. – iridescent 23:43, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
As a screen reader user, I think alt text should be encouraged, but not required on every image. If there's no alt text in math equations, screen readers will read out the raw LaTeX, which is never easy to parse. Long alt text is hard to read for me; a screen reader says "link graphic" before each line. Therefore alt text should be succinct; Eubulides' alt text for At Eternity's Gate is a good length. However, a picture paints a thousand words, and there are some images which probably can't be described succinctly, like maps or photos. Sometimes I find that all I want is a tactile diagram of an image, so I can properly understand it. Graham87 01:08, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
  • "HOw in the Heck am I supposed to explain an image like the lead map in Gregorian mission?" It's not that hard. The alt text does not need to explain everything about the image, only its gist. I just now added alt text to every image in Gregorian mission; for the lead map the alt text is "Map of England and Wales. Britons are in the west, Northumbrians in the north, Mercians in the center, Saxons in the south, and Angles in the middle east. Many smaller groups are present." It took me about 20 minutes to view all the article's images and write alt text for each one.
  • "Or the various family trees there?" Sorry, I didn't see any family trees in that article.
  • "the whole point of images on most articles is that they illustrate aspects that would be hard to explain in text form" It's true that alt text is typically a poor substitute for an image; but alt text is much better than nothing, for people who can't see the image.
  • "For something like Chelsea Bridge, the alt text for most of the images would be as long or longer than the accompanying paragraph" No, the alt text doesn't have to be that long. I just now added alt text to Chelsea Bridge. Again, it wasn't that hard (another 20 minutes). In some cases the alt text was shorter even than the caption. I don't see any case where the alt text was longer than the accompanying paragraph.
  • In summary, let's please not overestimate the amount of effort it takes to add alt text to an article's images. Adding alt text is a tiny, tiny fraction of the work needed to write a featured article.

Eubulides (talk) 07:14, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

    • Wow! Good work. I checked out the Chelsea Bridge article; it was interesting to hear descriptions of things that sighted people would take for granted, such as the Battersea Shield. I made a tweak to the alt text to make it more readable with speech synthesizers. I agree with sticking to the most important details about an image in the alt text; I don't want information overload, just a rough mental idea of what's in an image. Graham87 12:29, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
  • I am in favor of this improvement to our criteria. Note that our image criterion is extremely low - we require "professional" writing and "well-researched" articles, but we only require properly licensed media (we, apparently, could care less about their quality or presentation). This is just one step towards what should ultimately be our goal: bringing criterion 3 in line with the others! Awadewit (talk) 12:10, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
  • I am very much against insisting on alt text as part of the FAC criteria. As other have said, images are quite enough of a PITA already. --Malleus Fatuorum 12:15, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
  • I think you mean copyright law is a PITA. Awadewit (talk) 12:21, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
  • Yes, I guess you're right. I'll admit that Graham's evident enthusiasm for the idea of alt text has given me pause for thought. --Malleus Fatuorum 12:37, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Would this invalidate nonfree images, since they are being used to illustrate a concept that words are insufficient in doing, if words are used in the alt text, does that not pretty much prove that words do illustrate the concept in the image? --Moni3 (talk) 12:44, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Not really: the alt text is meant to describe the image but does not need to apply critical commentary or the like to justify the image; that needs to be done in the text and caption. That said, this may make it clear for a handful of NFC cases that the image may be redundant to text, requiring further justification for its use - given the typical uses of NFC, this is a small minority of cases and nothing requiring a major review of all FAs to validate their images again. --MASEM (t) 14:10, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
Who pays me $1,000 the first time an image in an FA with alt text is up for deletion for this very reason? --Moni3 (talk) 14:15, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
I didn't say it's not going to happen - but it's not going to be a huge impact on the FA process already where image inclusion is already highly scrutinized; it might impact, what, 5% of the images that pass through the process? And even though, it is a good call for FA submitters to find something more to justify borderline images. Say, for example, the image is a tableau of characters from a movie - say File:Reservoirdog.jpg (This is not a featured article, just an example that came to mind). The alt text for that image would be easy: "The cast of Reservoir Dogs, from left to right..." and without any other comment, is replaceable by text. However, in this case, that tableau and that specific scene is part of the iconic nature of the movie which is further described by the article text and something that cannot be described in the alt text without it itself becoming a novel. Thus, while the alt text technically replaces the image to the point that a screen-reader user can understand what's in the image, the image would still meet NFC because there's additional commentary on it.
In other words, by requiring alt text for FAs, it will cause more images to be scrutinized, but at the same time in order to meet that scrutiny, that will likely further improve reasons why certain NFC images are used and strength their non-free rationale. --MASEM (t) 14:29, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
I can't imagine a case where an image that would otherwise satisfy WP:NFC would be rejected simply because alt text was added to it. Alt text is almost always a poor substitute for the image; alt text is useful only because it is much better than nothing for readers who can't see the image. Eubulides (talk) 16:01, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
I support this proposal wholeheartedly. Some issues of ALT text at FAC were discussed in December 2008 at Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_106#ALT_text and the idea of requiring ALT text for all math-mode equations was discussed in January 2009 at Wikipedia_talk:Accessibility#Image_alt.2Fcaption_confusion. To help people, I wrote a script that checks for ALT text in images which you can install by adding "importScript('User:Proteins/checkALTtext.js');" to the monobook.js subpage under your user name, e.g., User:Proteins/monobook.js. In the recently promoted mathematical FA, Euclidean algorithm, we avoided math-mode equations wherever possible and gave ALT text for the remainder. Tim Vickers and I added ALT text to all the images of Acid dissociation constant. Based on that experience, I expect that it should be feasible for other articles, if editors are willing. Proteins (talk) 08:15, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
I certainly agree that the addition of alt-text to acid dissociation constant was an improvement, and that the improvement could go further with some guidelines for users. In chemistry, for example, we would probably need some sort of formal ontology to avoid duplicated work. I'm not sure what this discussion is doing here: surely it is an issue which needs to be discussed more widely in the various editing communities which would be affected. Or is this just a suggestion for FAs and to hell with the rest of the encyclopedia? Physchim62 (talk) 12:39, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
The discussion for the whole encyclopedia has been done (see WP:ACCESSIBILITY and WP:ALT). This discussion is just whether it's helpful to remind and/or educate editors about this for FAs. Also, FAs often serve as examples for the rest of the encyclopedia. Eubulides (talk) 14:52, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
I did not anticipate that adding alt text would be so scintillating this early in the morning. --Moni3 (talk) 12:18, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
meta-comment (which probably belongs at ALT, but posting here for now since this is a wider audience) If having no alt text isn't good for accessibility, surely defaulting the alt text to be the caption when no alt text is specified should be the default fall-back, no? I presume this wouldn't be hard to achieve technologically. TwilligToves (talk) 06:04, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
The Philosopher (c. 250–200 BC) from the Antikythera wreck illustrates the style used by Hecataeus in his bronze of Philitas.

The Philosopher (c. 250–200 BC) from the Antikythera wreck illustrates the style used by Hecataeus in his bronze of Philitas.

No, because screen readers etc. already have access to the caption. There is no point to duplicating the caption, so it's better to have no alt text than to have it default to the caption. To the right of this comment I've placed a simulation of the useless repetition inherent in what an image would "look" like to a screen reader, if alt text defaulted to the caption. Contrast this with the more-useful example in WP:ALT #What people see with images turned off. Eubulides (talk) 06:29, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Ah, I see. Makes sense. Thanks. (talk) 05:11, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

I am reluctant to see use of alt-text being made mandatory, not because I am opposed to the goal of making wikipedia more accessible, but because I often wouldn't know how to appropriately describe an image without, at least partially, repeating the contents of the caption (I tried this for the images at India as a mental exercise). I assume that I am not alone on this.
I would therefore suggest that instead of trying to "force" alt-text use by fiat, it would be more useful if a wikiproject was set up add alt-text to current vital and Featured articles, while encouraging FA candidates to use alt-text too. That way we will have useful set of well-written exemplars of alt-text descriptions for maps, portraits, chemical formulas, plant, flowers, animals, album and book covers, logos, anatomical images, micrographs, color palettes, etc, which can then be used as rough templates by all editors. Such an exercise would also help establish the level of recommended detail and the boundaries of permitted OR and referencing requirements. Finally, the wikirpoject would serve as a useful forum for editors to ask for help when they (inevitably) run into problems or experience a writer's block. Once we have a large enough corp of editors familiar and comfortable with alt-text descriptions, we can make their use mandatory in featured content, in a few months time. Abecedare (talk) 07:37, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

It's OK on occassion to partly repeat the caption, when the caption describes what the image looks like. For India which images did you find hard to describe? I just now added alt text to all of India's images: it took maybe 30 minutes, and I didn't run into many problems. In my mind I briefly described each image over the telephone to a friend; then I wrote down what I said. Alt text shouldn't be an exhaustive description; it should merely say the gist of an image. Eubulides (talk) 08:58, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, such examples are useful. Since you asked, the images I had problem thinking descriptions for were:
  • File:Aero-Sukhoi1.JPG, for which I was thinking of "grey coloured military plane ascending against a blue sky", which turned out to be not too different from what your choice.
  • File:BSE.jpg for which I only had, "a tall building viewed from street-level", which sounded inadequate, but I guess that's better than nothing.
  • Image:IPL T20 Chennai vs Kolkata.JPG for which I had a much longer description in mind, mentioning the batsman's pose and the visible fielding positions (obviously I have heard too much cricket commentary :) )
  • Image:India Geographic Map.jpg, I noticed that you mentioned the colors in the topographical map, but without the key, the colors are not meaningful at all. Still not sure what the appropriate description would be ("mountainous region bordering China ... higher altitudes in the central plains ..." ?).
  • Also I had planned to include the name of Nehru, Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Medvedev in the alt-text ("Gandhi dressed in a dhoti..."), which would then have been partially redundant with the caption; I noticed that you avoided that.
Anyway, coming back to the larger point: what do you think about my wikiproject proposal above ? Since the FA criteria applies not only to FA candidates but also to current FAs, it would be good to deal with them preemptively instead of threatening them with, and overburdening, FAR. Abecedare (talk) 09:39, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
A wikiproject would make sense, yes. (Not that I'd join it; I'm not much of a project guy.) Adding an alt text requirement to the criteria shouldn't threaten or overburden FAR. We needn't add alt text to all featured articles right away, and if some article is "threatened" (presumably for political reasons?) with an FAR it's only a matter of a few minutes to add alt text to it, which would remove the "threat". Eubulides (talk) 09:55, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

I fully support this and can't understand the PITA argument at all. If our featured articles "exemplif[y] our very best work" then it shames us if we say this is possible while ignoring the needs of some of our readers. I guess for many of us, writing good alt-text involves learning, but it doesn't look that hard. I would hope many FA nominees, when told "please could you add some alt-text for the images", would react positively that they had learned something important that they would continue to apply in their article-writing. Colin°Talk 08:14, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

As the one who made the PITA comment, let me clarify that I was really talking about the already onerous licensing requirements, particularly for images loaded to Commons, which are offputting enough to many editors without adding yet another hoop to get through. Having said that though I'm all in favour of encouraging editors to add alt text, particularly since I've seen Graham's evident enthusiasm for the idea, and have made a start on doing that in some of the articles I've written. This discussion has been interesting, as it's not really an issue I'd given much thought to before. --Malleus Fatuorum 12:23, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Kids, this was hard. Alt text for the Museum of Bad Art. You try not to interpret wtf those awful paintings look like without POV or OR. --Moni3 (talk) 13:52, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
It's worse than you think. {{Infobox Museum}} doesn't allow alt text (check the page and see the logo has no alt text). I found a problem earlier with with {{Infobox disease}} which didn't accept "|alt=" but was happy with "|Alt=", sadly that fix didn't work for museum. There is a can of worms in infobox templates and somebody who knows what they are doing needs to go through and make sure they all accept |alt= parameters, if we're going to be taken seriously. --RexxS (talk) 16:54, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for that Museum of Bad Art example! It's beautiful! I trimmed some of its alt text to remove unnecessary phrases like "A color photograph of ...". I also added alt text to the {{Infobox Museum}} use, and asked for the trivial (and tested) changes to be installed into the template so that it supports alt text. I expect it to be installed shortly by an admin. Protected templates are admittedly a hassle if you're not an admin, but I've added alt text support to several infobox templates now, and they've all been simple and fast to fix. (I'm not an admin, thank goodness.) Eubulides (talk) 18:50, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Curious: why is "Color photograph of" and such not preferable? Wouldn't visually impaired people be interested to know what the image actually is? --Moni3 (talk) 18:53, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
People who can't see an image primarily want to know what it looks like. How the image was prepared is typically unimportant, as is provenance. In a few cases (for example, this mirror view in a diascope of an autochrome of Percy MacKaye), a sighted viewer will immediately see that it's a color photograph, and for these images it's important to say so in the alt text; but normally the phrase "Color photograph of" is useless baggage in alt text. Eubulides (talk) 19:09, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
OK, I'm taking this to heart. I've tried with Pendle witch trials, but I'm a bit stumped as to how to deal with the two family trees. Any ideas? --Malleus Fatuorum 19:15, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Small family trees can be converted entirely to text. I used parentheses to indicate subfamilies and added text like "Family tree. Ann Whittle (Chattox)'s children were Elizabeth (Bessie) Whittle and Anne Redfene (who married Thomas Redferne, with daughter Mary Redferne)" for Image:ChattoxFamily.png. Perhaps there's a standard for this in genealogy; that might be better than my ad hoc notation. Eubulides (talk) 22:30, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
Black and white photographs have historical markers in them. Color photographs do as well. Black and white photography, particularly in recent decades, is often used for artistic effect. I added alt text to 13 FAs yesterday explaining in every one what the image actually was. I used references to colors knowing that fully blind readers may not have any idea what they refer to. A digital representation of a map is different than a hand-drawn map. I have to say I raise my eyebrows at statements that all visually impaired people deem the same details as important or unimportant. --Moni3 (talk) 19:15, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
  • Well, this is a judgment-call area and reasonable editors can disagree. I'm not visually impaired, but I do use text browsers like Lynx that benefit heavily from alt text, and when doing so I want to see a brief description of the main point of the image.
  • For Image:João Zeferino da Costa - Moisés recebendo as tábuas da lei - 1868.jpg, for example, I find A (at right) to be much less useful than B. This is a deliberately extreme example of course (nobody is seriously proposing the A style) and it is not meant to be a fair comparison, but I hope it illustrates the issues involved.
  • I think we agree that when color (or black-and-white) is significant to the appearance of the image, it should be mentioned in alt text; when not, then not. Where we might disagree is how frequently it is in Wikipedia that the colors are significant.
  • Part of this may have to do with the fact that I rarely edit articles on art. In art, colors typically matter; but in other fields, they often don't. For Image:US-autism-6-17-1996-2007.png, for example, colors are irrelevant, so it's perfectly reasonable to use alt text that doesn't mention color or way the image was prepared.
Eubulides (talk) 22:30, 26 June 2009 (UTC)
I use a Firefox Add-on called Web Developer toolbar that allows me (among many other things) to display alt attributes above images. That lets me check at a glance that the alt description matches the image. Others may find it useful. --RexxS (talk) 00:15, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

To summarize the above discussion: Awadewit, Colin, Physchim62, and Proteins were in favor, some strongly so. Malleus Fatuorum was initially very much against, but later said was in favor. Iridescent really disagreed, citing Chelsea Bridge as an article that wouldn't be helped with alt text, but after alt text was added to Chelsea Bridge Graham87 thought it was good work and Iridescent didn't follow up. Ealdgyth wasn't opposed (though not happy). Abecedare thought the time was not ripe yet, citing India as an example; and after I added alt text to India suggested again the idea of a WikiProject.

Graham87 uses alt text and had an opinion that weighed heavily with us, namely that alt text should be encouraged but not required on every image, and should be brief. In an attempt to summarize the consensus on all the above, I added "brief and useful alt text when feasible". Eubulides (talk) 22:58, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

I am a little late to the show but I wanted to chime in here. I understand the need to add alt text to allow a max number of users to be able to access WP content and applying this to an article is one thing. I have several lists that have a large number of images and this makes me rethink putting images on the lists the way I have been. See List of Medal of Honor recipients and associated lists in hte template (Veracruz or African American are a good example and I am working on WWI now). Korea is another good example. In my opinion if I was using technology which allowed me to hear or feel the text because I could not see the image I think I would feel overwhelmed by the info. IMO. --Kumioko (talk) 01:57, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Thinking on this a little more I also think thay before we implenent this and potentially delist a huge number articles ad lists we should give folks a little while to get used to the idea of using it. I used awb to do a scan of 14000+ articles related to US military biographies over night and only 9 had alt text and after looking at them not every image had it.-Kumioko (talk) 11:45, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I added alt text to List of Medal of Honor recipients. I don't think the result is overwhelming in the context of a list of all the Medal of Honor recipients (a list that is already overwhelming, at least to this naive reader). On the contary, the change is a big improvemen. For example, for the Charles Brown entry a screen reader will now say something like "Large foreign flag behind three 1870s soldiers or sailors on a shipdeck" where it would have said "one eight seven one ess you jay a gee eye dot jay pee gee"; this should be an immense improvement for the visually impaired. This text is not overwhelming in the context of an entry that already says "Charles Brown ... Brown at right USMC Corporal aboard the USS Colorado June 11, 1871 USS Colorado Assisted in capturing the Korean standard from the citadel of the fort." Eubulides (talk) 18:28, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
As far as I know, this does not apply to featured list candidates, the change only applies to featured article candidates. Ealdgyth - Talk 13:02, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Criterion 5 of the FL criteria has been updated to say that images should have "'alt" text if necessary", whatever that's supposed to mean. As opposed to the FA criterion of "alt text where feasible". --Malleus Fatuorum 13:21, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I tend to think that featured is featured whether it be an article or a list and the criteria should be basically the same and this still doesn't solve the problem of what to do about all the featured articles that currently do not have the alt text. Do we unfeature them or give some timeframe for them to be fixed before its implemented. By all means make it law for all new ones being submitted but at some point the old ones will need to be considered as well. Also, the FL folks appear to be taking the stand (as they should in my opiion) that if its required for FA then FL will do it also. --Kumioko (talk) 13:51, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Nobody is suggesting immediately delisting thousands of articles. As articles and lists come up as candidates or for review, this requirement (along with the other requirements) can be checked. In the FA and FL context, alt text is a fairly minor requirement; it doesn't take that much time to do compared to all the other stuff one has to do. It took me about 30 minutes to add alt text to all the images in [[List of Medal of Honor recipients, and it would have taken less if I had known anything about military uniforms and their styles. Eubulides (talk) 18:28, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I support a strong encouragement for alt-text, and I think it should be a requirement for images that appear on the main page excerpt. I'm going to drop a note at WT:WPACCESS pointing here as well. –xenotalk 13:29, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Ok I ran into another point of question in regards to the display of ranks and or ribbons for military folks. Such as the case of Michael P. Murphy or Smedley Butler the Medal of Honor recipients who have ribbons displayed. How does one describe these ribbons and should we have a standard alt text for each so that we don't end up with 50 different descriptions for the same medal or ribbon. This also applies to the rank insignia where displayed. Its relatively easy to describe a four star general but a bit more difficult to describe the insignia worn by the navy to designate a career field. --Kumioko (talk) 18:30, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I suggest putting recommended alt text on the image page, especially for often used images such as those. Ealdgyth - Talk 18:40, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I wonder if some technical wizardry could be devised to allow alt-text to be provided on the image description page for these oft-used images. –xenotalk 18:42, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Recommendation: I would like to recommend that as we implement this we start with the image itself. If we create a standard alt text for an image then a bot, AWB or even a human can ensure that the alt text is 1)associated with the picture and 2)is consistent from article to article for that picture. I admit that it may require a modification to the way that comments are associated to images however I think this is the easiest way that allows us to present a clean and consistent alt text to the readers and editors while at the same time minimizing the manual editing required. If we can come up with a standard wau to document the alt text for an image it shoudl be relatively easy to create a script or bot to populate said image with alt text.--Kumioko (talk) 18:42, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

See File:Moh right.gif as an example. --Kumioko (talk) 18:55, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I've asked at VPT if it would be possible for such a solution to allow the alt-text to automatically be included if not provided when an image is used. See WP:VPT. –xenotalk 19:06, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, thats a good idea. I added the above recommendation to the Alt text talk page. --Kumioko (talk) 19:11, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Semms to me that this change to the criteria wasn't really well thought out. The alt text clearly ought to be associated with an image, not with the use of an image in an article. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:11, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Disagree with this, whether or not the "alt text requirement" goes ahead. The appropriate alt-text for an image depends on context; this image of Lindsay Lohan wearing a Gucci hat would warrant totally different descriptions in its two different Wikipedia usages; in Gucci, the text would focus on the design of the hat and the person wearing it would be irrelevant, whereas in Lindsay Lohan it would describe the person wearing it with just a passing mention of the hat. – iridescent 19:10, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that's the case, as the alt text is simply describing the picture. It may require different captions, of course, but not different alt text. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:15, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Malleus. The description of the photo would seemingly stay the same, while the caption would change. I don't think that means the alt text idea is ill-conceived, however. I think that means we are still learning to write alt text - a different point entirely. Some people are still learning to write "professionally" and that has been part of the criteria for a while now. :) Awadewit (talk) 19:23, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Although I can see that in specific circumstances the image can depend on the context I think that more than 90% of the time a standard desciption of the image itself is sufficient. If the editor feels like it doesn't adequently describe the image based on the context then by all means change it but I think we should have a basis from which to implement this editorial nightmare. --Kumioko (talk) 19:19, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely agree. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:22, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Lindsay may not be the best example to use, as she was just the result my my clicking "random page" to find an image used on multiple articles. Take for example the multiple "terrace house" photos in Noel Park (which I went through and alt-textified as an exercise last week) – in the context of this article (showing the subtle differences between the five different styles of design) they need to include descriptions of architectural details, while in most other usage "row of red brick houses" would be sufficient. Additionally, the alt text is used to describe similarities (for instance, between the church and the village hall), which would make no sense if the images were used in separate articles. – iridescent 19:25, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
As commented at the VPT page, if this functionality were available, it should also be able to be overridden by explicitly providing it when calling the image. I think the merits of the technical proposal should be discussed at VPT, fwiw. –xenotalk 19:29, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

(bloody EC)Comment: I am late to this discussion because I have been very busy in real life (swine 'flu). But I have noticed that Eubulides has been requesting the incorporation of alt texts at FACs, and the change to the FA criteria. So, I added alternative texts to Rotavirus and, for some images, to Virus, (comments welcome). The problem that I discovered is that "a picture is worth a thousand words". So, whom are these alternative texts for; those readers with slow modems, those with less than good eyesight or those who use clever speech programmes? Perhaps, it is all of these. I think the community needs some guidance on how to write them. Graham Colm Talk 19:22, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Primarily screen readers, but the other examples as well. People who browse with images off, etc. See Wikipedia:Alternate text for images. –xenotalk 19:30, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
They do not seem that difficult to write, and in esoteric science articles they might even be better than the legend! But, as Colin once wrote, the art of good writing is in knowing your audience. Graham Colm Talk 19:46, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

On further reflection, I support this in principle because, (sorry for the POV) it will make scientists such as me look at our images more discerningly and not assume a knowledge of scale, anatomy, viruses, molecular biology, microbiology, chemistry and so on and so forth. But, I accept that it might be difficult to maintain WP:NPOV for photographs of people doing, well, what people do. Graham Colm Talk 20:02, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

The difficulty in writing alt text is exactly that: making it descriptive and easy to understand without being verbose or using POV language and original research. Dabomb87 (talk) 23:03, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Also jumping in late here... I strongly support this proposal. Alt text is very important for accessibility, and it's not that hard to add. I would be fine with the additional proposal above to specify default alt-text for an image that can be overridden in an article. --Alynna (talk) 12:45, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Alt text viewer tool

I through the alt viewer quickly together after I noticed that Ruff had alt description but the syntax was wrong (|alt = instead of |alt=). It works like the other tools. Could throw together a short description for unfamiliar editors to use the tool, to replace the placeholder text. I'd do it myself, but typically confusion arises. — Dispenser 17:17, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Well done thanks.--Kumioko (talk) 17:42, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Objection to this

An average Wikipedia FA writer, not waving but drowning. Alt=A black and green man with a squished face and half his head missing holding his hands up against glass with squiggly green blotches on it. :)

I would like to remove the requirement to provide alt text in FAs. It is yet another stylistic burden on FA writers, and there are already too many. It is getting to the point where the prospect of submitting an article for FA is something of a depressing prospect, and anything that makes that even worse should be avoided. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:38, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

As the above discussion illustrates, alt text typically requires little extra work compared to what else needs to be done to create an FA, and it can markedly improve accessibility to visually impaired readers. Do you have specific examples of why alt text would be an undue burden? Eubulides (talk) 09:04, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
When I added it at the recent FAR at your request, I found it an enormous pain, and that was only for three images. I would hate to have to go through an article with a lot of images figuring out how to describe certain types of architecture, or "man with a wig looking to his left" to describe Immanuel Kant. You described Clare College, Cambridge as a nondescript three-storey building :). I can't say I blame you because what else is there to say, but it's hardly accurate.
I really find these of very questionable value, and as I said, even if they were the best thing since sliced bread, I'd still say please don't add any more style issues to the FA criteria. The editors who want these can add them to FAs themselves, surely. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:13, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Alt text has little value to sighted readers with graphical browsers, of course; it's designed more for visually impaired people who use screen readers and the like. The alt text you added to Bernard Williams at FAR contained 104 words total, for four images. I'm sorry that you found this an enormous pain, but with a little practice most editors find that it's not that much work. Perhaps it would help to say that alt text is supposed to be functional rather than perfect, and that it should be brief? Eubulides (talk) 09:43, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I also oppose making alt text mandatory at FA reviews or anywhere else. The discussion so far has focussed on "photographic" images, with the exception of one map. Alt text for diagrams would often be a nightmare, for example File:Arthropod head problem 01.png would need alt text almost as long and complex as a summary of the Arthropod head problem, File:Mollusc generalized.png would need alt text about as long as the description of basic mollusc anatomy, File:Porifera cell types 01.png would need alt text about as long as the description of sponges' cell types - and if it proved possible to make the alt text more concise in these diagrams, the effort required would exceed that required to compose the corresponding article content text. I'm sure there are other types of image and types of article where alt text is unlikely to be helpful at all unless it is very long or ridiculous amounts of effort are expended. --Philcha (talk) 09:55, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Please see #Alt text for diagrams below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Even for "photographic" images, alt text often cannot help users with visual difficulties, slow connections,etc. In the example Eubulides cited (09:43, 4 August 2009), alt text text for pic of Bernard Williams, the description of his clothes is irrelevant as this pic aims to identify an individual, and for that you need a few dozen features peculiar to an individual and often hard to describe in words rather than by measurements (e.g. "centres of eyes X cm apart and Ycm below crown of head, nose Z cm long, etc., and goodness knows how one handles colours of eyes, hair , complexion, etc.). The RNIB recommends "picture of X" for a simple example - whihc is mor erelevant, but not informative. As far as I can see, the proponents of alt text have not done the hard work of reviewing and commenting publicly on hundreds of diverse examples. --Philcha (talk) 10:08, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Please see #Alt text for portraits below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec) There are two separable issues here, E. First, the issue of helping readers: is there any evidence that it actually helps visually impaired people? And secondly, the issue of helping editors. No matter how helpful another style addition might be, we are literally sinking under the weight of these requirements. That we only have 2,000 or so FAs out of however many million articles is illustrative of it. Seriously, my heart sinks when I think of bringing an article to FA, even though I love writing, I enjoy writing WP articles, I love improving them, I love to see them complete and professional-looking, but I feel myself losing what is left of my mind at the thought of bringing them to FA. So, really, this is a plea for mercy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:56, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Please see #Alt text helps the visually impaired below. In practice, alt text is one of the easiest parts of writing an article; it's easier than the article text, for example, because it doesn't need sources and can be immediately verified. If the FA requirements are onerous I suggest looking at some of the other requirements, not this one, as this one is fairly minor. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Regarding Philcha's point, I agree very much. I couldn't see the point of removing more informative descriptions of Cambridge colleges and a man punting on the River Cam, in favor of "three-storey building, man in a boat with a stick." I can't see how that helps anyone. It felt like a make-work project. I should add that I don't mean to sound disrespectful to the people who want this, because obviously you're trying to help readers, which is clearly commendable. I just question whether this really is helping, and I also don't want to see a small number of readers helped at the expense of the straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back for FA writers. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:26, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Slim, can you please stop bitching. If this stylistic requirement is causing you to "drown" figuratively, that's rather sad, but it's your issue. It takes no time to add halfway decent alt text, and I hardly expect FAR will be filled with articles that don't meet this criteria--anyone can add it, it requires no special knowledge of the topic. Trying to suggest that we should lower FA requirements isn't going to win over anyone here. If you don't want to do the work, no one's forcing you to. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 12:00, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I tend to agree with David. I'm recently much less gung ho about getting articles to FA, but not because of the amount of work that goes into the article. I'm still constructing articles with FA criteria in mind. Every several months I go read over the articles that were promoted to FA previously, including the ones that have appeared on the main page. They need dusting off and prose tweaking occasionally because standards rise. I like that. I'm glad visually impaired folks will have an opportunity to understand the images in an article, even Museum of Bad Art. --Moni3 (talk) 12:16, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec) But the point is that people are trying to force it. The editors who want the alt text are free to add it themselves, but what has happened here is that others are being required to add it whether they want to or not. That's the point I'm objecting to—objecting, mind you, not "bitching". No need for that kind of response, David. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:17, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
When you're involved, Slimmy, it's basically my stock response. Guess what: the FA criteria have always been a set of standards many editors don't agree with. If you don't, then don't participate in the FAC process, because you're going to have people picking apart your articles and making sure they adhere to standards. News flash: this is nothing new. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 12:20, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Why is there a need to be so rude? This is a perfectly legitimate objection. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:24, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Is there a difference between, say, alt text and inline citations? Or strict image policy adherence? Is there not value in strengthening criteria and setting high standards? --Moni3 (talk) 12:26, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
(Response to David) In case you haven't noticed, many editors have already stopped trying to meet these criteria, many of which don't actually make a better article for the reader. It's been my own observation that FAs have become more formulaic and less interesting. While they aren't poorly written, one that has brilliant prose, is engaging and motivates the reader to click the links, is an exception rather than the rule - although they do tend to have their m-dashes in all the right places. I'd been looking forward to returning to work in this area now that my external obligations had lessened, but reading recent FACs and their reviews has left me feeling unmotivated. Risker (talk) 12:29, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Many of us put a lot of a time into reviewing articles for sourcing, images, comprehensiveness, and prose. Good to know that this is being ignored and forgotten and that all people remember is the MOS review. Awadewit (talk) 12:34, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Moni, it's just a question of it being yet one more style thing for FA writers to adhere to. Citing sources is obviously needed and is policy; ditto with images. But alt text isn't policy, and isn't required by the MoS. Yet somehow it has managed to be added here as a stipulation. It's also not clear that it actually helps anyone, which is why some evidence of that would be appreciated. I think it needs to be removed from here and discussed at MoS level. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:34, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Why do individual editors stop trying to get FAs? Is it because of endashes and alt text? Is it because we're starting to demand something better than GoogleBooks and the top 10 hits on a search engine? These are generalities that cannot be attributed to an alt text requirement. If the only thing editors had to do to get an FA was to add alt text, I figure a bunch of editors would be swarming to get FAs. SlimVirgin seems to be saying that alt text is a breaking straw over a foundation of many criteria. What the straw falls atop is a (what I hope is) a strong foundation of superior sourcing and brilliant writing. That takes weeks and months to do. I spent 2 days filling in alt text for 14 FAs. --Moni3 (talk) 12:38, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Alt text takes about 2-3 minutes per image, hardly anything to the time to research the article YellowMonkey (cricket photo poll!) paid editing=POV 02:13, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I know that one of the reasons editors stop submitting FACs is because of the increasingly strict style requirements. I'm all for style consistency within an article, and good sourcing. But there is an intense focus on style at FA, contrasted with very little focus on the writing or the substance of the content; the latter is harder to do, so naturally there's less of it, but still people feel they have to inject something, so the style issues are often piled on. I'm not arguing against what's already in place; it's part of the culture now, and it probably can't be changed easily. What I am arguing is that we shouldn't make it worse. We especially shouldn't add criteria that aren't required by the MoS, aren't policy, and haven't been widely discussed. Alt text has nothing to do with superior sourcing and brilliant writing. It's exactly the kind of thing that might put a brilliant writer off.
In addition, and this is a separate issue, it's not at all clear that the way we're required to write the alt texts is at all helpful or informative. Who is helped, who is educated, by being told that, in Immanuel Kant, there is an image of a man in a wig looking downwards and to his right? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:54, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Multiple comments above say that alt text isn't policy, as if that settled the matter. First, this is technically incorrect, as alt text is recommended by Wikipedia:Image use policy. Second, even if alt text weren't mentioned by policy, it's still recommended by several guidelines, not only within Wikipedia but by the W3G. There are good reasons for these guidelines, even if individual Wikipedia editors may not agree with them.
  • There may well be too many requirements for FA. But alt text is by far one of the simpler and easier requirements to meet. In the FAs I've written alt text is an imperceptible part of the work, less than 0.1% I would estimate. If the goal is to make FAs easier to write, the focus should be on other FA requirements, not this one.
  • The claim that alt text has not been widely discussed is incorrect. It's been discussed in many forums, not just this talk page, and has wide support.
  • "It's exactly the kind of thing that might put a brilliant writer off." No, it's not. What most puts off brilliant writers are things like stubborn and poorly-supported disputants on talk pages, lack of access to good sources, etc., etc. There are dozens of things that are far more a barrier to good FAs than alt text is. And there is no evidence, other than unsupported opinion, that alt text is a significant barrier to FAs. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "it's not at all clear that the way we're required to write the alt texts is at all helpful or informative" Please see #Alt text helps the visually impaired below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

<reset>Editors not trying for FAs: On one hand we should stop speculating why editors don't try for FAs and find out, but on the other hand the stringent criteria weeds out editors who are not devoted to maintaining and improving their articles. Until I see a report with data indicating why editors are not trying to get FAs, I'm not going to take FA talk page observations as Gospel. The objections I've seen to the FAC process either turns editors away forever, or strengthens them to improve themselves and their articles. I think that's a valuable fork and a decision editors have to make.

Alt text: I suppose it remains to be seen how visually impaired readers are assisted. I'm not (that) visually impaired, so I guess we would need some input from readers who are. --Moni3 (talk) 13:01, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

@Slim: If any "brilliant" writer is put off by having to describe an image or two to a disabled viewer, he or she is a lazy moron. Brilliance doesn't cut it if you aren't willing to do any work, and if you can't spend another five minutes on improving an article, you aren't going to survive the FAC process anyhow. Just let it drop, and go crawl back to whatever hole you spend your wikidays in, please. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 13:43, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I really don't see any need to adopt that kind of insulting tone David. I've certainly become more reluctant to submit articles recently, but it's nothing to do with alt text. SlimVirgin asks a valid question nevertheless. Does alt text (as it's being written now) really help the visually impaired or not? --Malleus Fatuorum 13:47, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear this tone taken, it's really not necessary to call folks "lazy morons". I objected (not very strongly, granted) to the adding of this requirement to FACs, does that make me lazy and a moron? In the last year or so, FAC has generally tightened up the requirements for sourcing, image sourcing, implemented a higher standard of sourcing and stepped up enforcement of the non-free image requirements. While I can see the point of ALT text, I'm not adverse to hearing more input on how we can write better ALT texts, and if it really does help? Ealdgyth - Talk 13:54, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm not insinuating anyone is foolish for disagreeing with the use of alt text. I'm saying that Slim's assertion that these "brilliant" writers will turn away from writing FAs because of alt text is bull, plain and simple. Many people above have testified that adding it took very little time, even to highly technical and scientific topics. What turns people off of writing FACs would be worth discussing, but it has nothing to do with alt text. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 14:07, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I won't speak for SlimVirgin. What I am saying is that the ever-increasing focus on minutiae and stylistic matters that have no effect on the reader is demotivating quality writers, and reinforcing formulaic ones. Can anyone explain how the reader is benefitted when the writer must be facile at using more than a dozen different citation templates - most of which render essentially the same information in the footnote? There has just been a significant dustup about image sizes, but only when someone deeply invested in style suddenly realised they were a problem; it's something editors (and readers) have been saying for a long time. I've got half a dozen manuals of style sitting on my desk at home; ours is more than twice the size of any of them, and is far more convoluted and complex. It's time to go back and re-examine what a featured article should be: there has to be a midpoint between "anything goes as long as it's interesting" and "over-produced and dull", but the minority of articles that find that midpoint seem to have to fight for their life to survive this process. Risker (talk) 14:32, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I can't explain the benefits of cite templates. I just refuse to use them anymore. One of these days I have to go through six or seven of my FAs and take out the templates. Cite templates are not a requirement. --Moni3 (talk) 14:38, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

If it's not such hard work to do, perhaps people should be constrained against opposing FACs on this basis, instead having to complete the ALT wording themselves. --Dweller (talk) 14:16, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I would hope they would too, but that just bridges into another issue of SOFIXIT issues that are endemic to any part of the FA criteria. Alt text is certainly one of the easiest issues to fix as it requires a very superficial analysis of an image. I'm not sure we can constrain people, though. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 14:19, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs, I'm put off from nominating for FA because of various time-consuming niggles - mostly WP:MOS:creep such as WP:DASH, but alt text has recently joined my reason for being averse. So you just called me "a lazy moron" (13:43, 4 August 2009). As an admin, you should be much more careful to keep a civil tongue in your head. I expect to see your apology soon. --Philcha (talk) 14:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
WP needs to get its priorities straight. My own are: (a) good coverage supported by good sources and explained clearly; (b) improving the prose. Requirements that deliver little benefit to readers should not be allowed to take up much time. Despite its theoretical benefits to users with visual difficulties, slow connections, etc., I see too many cases where alt text is of little help - fairly technical diagrams; images that identify persons, places, etc.; some for which there are no suitable terms in normal English, such as the box art some games (e.g. Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares); and good luck with alt text for the pics at Anal sex :-)
"theoretical benefits" The benefits are not theoretical; see #Alt text helps the visually impaired below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Would any one like to start a list of cases where alt text might not work too well? --Philcha (talk) 14:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I'd also like to see examples of the kind of alt text that visually impaired readers actually find useful. Is "man in a wig"? really helpful, for instance? In general it's my conviction thast the requirement for alt text was rushed and botched. --Malleus Fatuorum 14:39, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Philcha, if you get Anal sex to FA quality, I'll do the alt text for the article. Deal? --Moni3 (talk) 14:40, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
ROFL(M..) :-)
If you'd also handle the WP:MOS:creep I'd be sorely tempted, just pour épater les bourgeois like Gropecunt Lane did. However I think I think getting the ones I've targetted to GA would benefit readers and WP's reputation rather more, as a return on the work required. However if anyone else wants to take up Moni3's offer, I assign my rights in that offer to them :-) --Philcha (talk) 14:56, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

There are other style things I'm not a fan of, but alt text is easy to add (although I've seen some serious struggles with it, for some reason), and helping the blind is a noble thing to do. I bet blind people particularly like Wikipedia, and we should cultivate that. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 14:38, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Easy to add perhaps, but is it easy to add actually helpful alt text. Do we even agree what that looks like? --Malleus Fatuorum 14:40, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Maybe not that easy, or agreed upon, but I bet blind people are pretty happy with anything that doesn't just repeat the caption (which seems to be what people add on their first attempt). - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 14:44, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I'd like to see some feedback from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Also I'm curious, given that many people would prefer not to see some of the images accompanying many wp articles (Philcha mentioned Anal sex above), whether they'd be happy to have a graphical description read out to them. --Malleus Fatuorum 14:48, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec) I found it quite difficult to write it in a way that would be helpful. It would be time consuming to do it well on an article with a lot of images. How about we change point 3 of the FA criteria from:

It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text when feasible, and acceptable copyright status.


It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, and acceptable copyright status. Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:50, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that goes far enough. The FA criteria have lost sight of the fact that the only images which really must have alt text are those without which it is not possible to understand the article. A picture of Kant in a wig is in no way necessary for the understanding of his article. --Malleus Fatuorum 14:53, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I like that. I'd support wording that made mandatory alt text for images which are necessary for comprehension of the article. I'd also suggest for those, like me, who feared an extra bar to FA production, that it'd reduce the proportion of images covered by the criterion to a very low level. --Dweller (talk) 14:57, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
The problem with "mandatory alt text for images which are necessary for comprehension of the article" (14:57, 4 August 2009) is that some technical diagrams are easily worth a thousand words - e.g. File:Mollusc generalized.png (I know what the arthropod head problem looks like as prose, e.g. in Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life). --Philcha (talk) 15:08, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Another suggestion:

It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text for images essential to a complete understanding of the article, and acceptable copyright status.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:09, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I could sign up to that. I still think the cart has been put before the horse though, as what ought to have been done first was to make a software change to allow images to have a default alt text. It seems absurd for every editor to keep reinventing the wheel for the same image. --Malleus Fatuorum 15:16, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Good point. I wonder if that could be suggested somewhere. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:27, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
It has been suggested, as noted below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I prefer SlimVirgin's previous suggestion, "Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required" (14:50, 4 August 2009). There's no proof that it's always possible to produce alt text that is both brief and useful. --Philcha (talk) 15:34, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Indeed I'm quite convinced that it isn't. --Malleus Fatuorum 15:39, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Please see #Alt text for diagrams below. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Hey! Can we please stop it? All this useful debate and (gasp!) accord will give us a bad name. --Dweller (talk) 15:43, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm a totally blind user of Wikipedia; I navigate it using the screen reader JAWS. I find alt text helpful when it describes properties of an image that are easy to discern for sighted people but aren't appropriate for a caption (e.g. roughly what a logo looks like, the text of a cartoon). I really don't know what I'm missing out on when I've never seen an image. I think alt text should be encouraged in FA's, but not required where their use would be impractical. They're certainly not worth bickering over. Graham87 16:02, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I'd be really interested to know whether you find alt text such as for the image I drew attention to below useful or not, and if not what you might find useful for a map, for instance, if anything. It's the very first image here. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:22, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I find it useful, if only because it describes the seal as circular. That's the only detail that's included in the alt text but not in the caption. The alt text is a good general overview of the image, as far as I can tell. Graham87 00:24, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
That is very interesting. It would be enlightening to know your opinion of the usefulness of various alt texts. Perhaps a sample could be submitted to you and you could provide feedback. Do you like long, detailed explanations, say of the subject of a painting? Regards, —Mattisse (Talk) 00:31, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I prefer it if the alt text is short and succinct, about the same length as a typical caption. It's probably better if sighted people evaluate alt text, because as I've said before, I don't know what I'm missing because I can't see any images at all. IIRC, the alt text will display if you turn off images in your browser. Graham87 12:05, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

I came here from the alt text discussion on Wikipedia talk:Featured article criteria, so I'm kind of jumping in feet first, but I've got to ask: are David's comments to SlimVirgin the normal tone on this page? I must ask you to cut it out, David. People who disagree with you are not by that token "bitching", nor are their arguments "bull". And your reply when she complains of your rudeness? "When you're involved, Slimmy [sic], it [="bitching"] is basically my stock response." Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed today or something, or is it really your stock response? If it is, you need to revise your stock response. Right now. Stop sneering, please. Think about it. Bishonen | talk 16:25, 12 August 2009 (UTC).

Useful alt text?

Map of Carrick, sea and rivers in blue with land going from brown to green depending on topography (brown higher, green lower); parish churches, major settlements and the monastery of Crossraguel are depicted on their locations
Carrick in the 13th and 14th centuries

I would argue that alt text like this: "Map of Carrick, sea and rivers in blue with land going from brown to green depending on topography (brown higher, green lower); parish churches, major settlements and the monastery of Crossraguel are depicted on their locations", which accompanies the image to the right is next to useless. What is the point of having any old text just to get through a new FA hoop? Thoughts? --Malleus Fatuorum 15:37, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

The only article this currently appears in is Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick. As the article includes a textual description of the geography already, the image wouldn't need an alt description at all. --Dweller (talk) 15:48, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the alt text could be improved. Also, the caption "Carrick in the 13th and 14th centuries" is not needed, as it duplicates text that is in the image. I attempted to fix this by removing the caption and replacing the alt text with "Map of Carrick, 13th–14th century, on the east shore of a large body of water. Its center was Crossraguel Abbey about 5 km inland. Nine parish churches and eleven important settlements ranged from Ballantrae in the south at the mouth of the Stinchar, then 40 km north to Greenan at the mouth of the Doon, and east to Bennan about 20 km up the Girvan." which conveys more-useful info to someone who can't see the image. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

My view

I didn't feel like my view on the matter fit into any of the sections above. Therefore, I will put it here, by itself. Here are my thoughts on the addition of alt text to the FA requirement: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!1111 Ottava Rima (talk) 15:57, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text=One A, a long line of Hs, six exclamation marks and, somewhat mysteriously, four ones. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:26, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Why isn't this a description page requirement also?

I may be missing something here, but why can't/isn't alt text be tagged onto the description page of images on Wikimedia Commons and those images on Wikipedia. That way, the alt text for images that are to be used multiple times won't have conflicting and inferior alt text, surely? MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 19:21, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

It would make sense if the person who uploads it were to add it to the image page, then everyone after that could simply copy it—though, again, my preference would be to encourage, not require. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:55, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Might be handy provided it's only a default that can be over-ridden in specific articles - which I suspect would need a change to the MediaWiki software. As Iridescent pointed out in an earlier sub-section (19:10, 10 July 2009), this image of Lindsay Lohan wearing a Gucci hat would need different alt texts in Gucci, where the design of the hat would be central, and in Lindsay Lohan, where the star would be central. --Philcha (talk) 20:21, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes that did cross my mind, however I also considered that some images would have no alternative (forgive the pun) alternative text. In these cases especially (although I still think in the case you highlighted above, separation could be given for emphasis of different items in the image) I do think including alt text in the description page could save on a lot of time. I thought I'd bring up the topic early, before it becomes too dug in (to the FAC process). MasterOfHisOwnDomain (talk) 21:05, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
The Wiki software should pull the title from the image if there is no overriding alt text at the use of the image. This would mostly solve the problem without editor effort. --John Nagle (talk) 21:28, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
This proposal was recently discussed at this section of the technical village pump. Graham87 00:34, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
... and like every other request for a sensible change, rejected. --Malleus Fatuorum 01:07, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Not bothering to read the above discussion, but just a random point that hard-coding alt text might be difficult if the images were on commons (I'm not a technical guy, so I could be horribly wrong.) --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 01:16, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Where things stand

My reading of the sections above is that there's no consensus to require writers to add alt text to all images in FACs, but there is consensus that alt text be encouraged, or that it be required for certain types of images. The two suggestions I made above that got support were (I'm bolding the alt text parts):

1. It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, and acceptable copyright status. Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required.


2. It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text for images essential to a complete understanding of the article, and acceptable copyright status.

or (per Malleus):

3. It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, and acceptable copyright status. Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required, except for images essential to a complete understanding of the article.

The current version says:

4. It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text when feasible, and acceptable copyright status.

Could people indicate which version they prefer? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:29, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Version 3 2, mainly because I think it's very likely that version 1 will simply encourage reviewers to continue to insist on alt text for all images. --Malleus Fatuorum 14:46, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • On reflection I'd prefer version 3, which would say 'Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required except for images essential to a complete understanding of the article. --Malleus Fatuorum 14:49, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I prefer version 1, but I'd also be fine with 2 and 3. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:09, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • My order of preference is 3, 4, 2, 1. Dabomb87 (talk) 15:14, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Option 1. "when feasible" (3) is a dispute waiting to happen. The "essential" images (2, 4) are often those where alt text is most difficult and likely to be very long - see (again!) File:Arthropod head problem 01.png --Philcha (talk) 16:23, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • 2 or 4 is my top choice, 1 is worthless for criteria. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 16:49, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • As a cautionary note, the phrasing "images essential to a complete understanding of the article" starts rubbing against NFCC#8, and could be taken to mean that every non-free image must have alt text, as if alt text is not needed, the image is not essential to the complete understanding of the article, and will fail NFCC#8. I'm sure there's cases of NFC images where alt text isn't helpful (due to possible repetition in the text or an image that is easily identified in the caption) and I can see some more aggressive NFC patrolers using that langauge to assert its not important. --MASEM (t) 16:59, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

I completely disagree with the above claim of consensus. Many editors have spoken against the idea of omitting alt text from featured articles; I haven't done a head count but it could well be that more have spoken against than for. The argument against alt text is based in the mistaken assumption that alt text does not help visually impaired readers.

Proposals 1 through 3 represent an extreme position, in that they say that it's OK to omit alt text unless an image really, really needs it. That's not the consensus here, nor is it the consensus elsewhere at Wikipedia or at W3C. Instead, the overall consensus is that alt text helps the blind, and that images should have alt text unless they are purely decorative. We should not carve out an FA exemption to these general guidelines.

If the wording is to be changed, it should be changed to:

5. It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text except for purely decorative images, and acceptable copyright status.

4 (the current version) would also be acceptable. 1 through 3 are not acceptable, as they attempt to overturn guidelines and policy. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

There is no policy or guideline that requires alt text, so options 1-3 don't overturn anything, E. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:51, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
WP:IUP is policy and it gives as a rule of thumb "Add a good alternative text for images." I'm not particularly interested in wikilawyering over whether this is policy or guideline; the point is that alt text is in several guidelines and is mentioned in policy, and this page shouldn't be attempting to undermine that widespread consensus. Eubulides (talk) 18:02, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Just to make clear: IUP does not require alt text. It discusses adding it as a "rule of thumb," just as it recommends cropping images to highlight the subject. But these are not policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:14, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'd be surprised if there's a widespread consensus to require alt text for all images. Also, you've acknowledged below (Wikipedia_talk:Featured_article_candidates#Alt_text_for_portraits) that, where an image is purely decorative and doesn't require alt text, your argument is that the image ought to be removed. You are therefore saying that all images require alt text, which makes the wording of your version 5 not quite as it seems. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:10, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Again, I'm not interested in wikilawyering whether alt text is formally required by policy. The point is that there's wide consensus support for alt text both in guidelines and policy.
  • I agree that there is no consensus to require alt text for all images. However, there is consensus and multiple guidelines (both on- and off-Wikipedia) to supply alt text for images that are not purely decorative.
  • I did not argue that all purely-decorative images should be removed. Quite the contrary, it's fine to have purely-decorative images in Wikipedia. I just now, for example, made an {{editprotected}} request for {{Geographic Location}}'s purely-decorative compass roses to have better accessibility support, and my request did not ask for these images to be removed or altered.
  • It appears that some of the disagreement in the above discussion come from a lack of consistent use of terminology. I am using "purely decorative" in the sense used by W3C (see Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and in WP:ALT #When to specify.
Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
The W3C link says purely decorative means "serving only an aesthetic purpose, providing no information, and having no functionality". That leaves a lot to interpretation, but probably means "purely decorative" images are not allowed on WP anyway - say I felt the urge to plaster pretty flowers or kitten pics on an economic article, and are certainly not likely to be found on FAC candidates. There should be no reference to them in the policy. I don't know how many people have seen the issue raised at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Pavel Bure/archive1. Except for diagrams, family trees etc, it seems to me that the Alt texts provided as exemplars are generally unhelpful and that to make them helpful would invoke calls of OR. At least one example on the policy page is clearly mis-informative, where an autistic child pointing at a fish in an aquarium (per the caption) is described as pointing at a "window". I think no-one has nominated a visual arts article in the 3 months since this edict came into force, and I'm not surprised. Art historians often have to describe images their publisher cannot afford to illustrate, and the "man in a wig looking left" is not the approach they adopt - nor that of the Moses, gold coin and philospher alt text examples provided here and at the policy. Of the options above I'd favour 3, and I generally support Slim Virgin's comments. Johnbod (talk) 04:30, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "probably means "purely decorative" images are not allowed on WP anyway" This reflects a misunderstanding of the technical term "purely decorative" as used by W3C and WP:ALT. Purely decorative images are definitely allowed on Wikipedia and are quite common in some articles. For example, {{flag|France}} generates " France", which contains a purely decorative image: the image is not intended to provide any info that's not in the text, and nothing happens when you click on it. Although it is true that Wikipedia thumb images are not purely decorative in the W3C sense because they have a link, plain pictures such as the one generated by {{flag}} are often purely decorative in Wikipedia, and are often found in featured article candidates.
  • Could you please illustrate the art historian comment with a specific example of an artwork and how its visual appearance is briefly described by an art historian, so that this can be contrasted with what WP:ALT suggests? Quite possibly we can use the result to improve WP:ALT. (I assume by "visual-arts article" you are excluding cinema, video games, and TV shows; we've had plenty of those, with no significant problems that I'm aware of.)
  • Thanks for catching the "window"/"aquarium" typo (fixed) and the too-long Pavel Bure alt text (I shortened it and added this to WP:ALT #Examples).
Eubulides (talk) 06:59, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
(outdent) I see your point about "purely decorative", but as this covered in the WP:ALT guideline and is likely to mislead, it should not be in the FAC requirements. The Bure alt text is certainly an improvement. For Greek coins, see this link and this catalogue These (like the alt text) do not mention that heads are in profile, because all heads on Greek coins are, but the average reader is unlikely to know this. The alt text above does not mention the band diadem, a sign of kingship, or the inscriptions; "well-fed" seems open to accusations of OR to me. Generally in short descriptions, identifiable figures are always named - strictly speaking the example above is incorrect to describe God the Father as a "man". The Greek philosopher image discussed above is unrelated to the subject and only included to show artistic style, yet neither caption nor alt text make the slightest attempt to characterize the style - which might also lead to OR of course. That is a problem in the Moses text also. In art history terms, the alt text examples (of all types, not just artistic images) tend to describe the Composition (visual arts) very briefly, but ignore the subject (which the caption will usually cover), the iconography, the style, and the meaning of the image. There are times when this approach adds meaningful information, but often it does not. In the Kant portrait example, an informed summary including the correct terms for his clothing & type of wig, or that he is formally dressed, and his age at the time, might be helpful, but "man in a wig looking left" adds next to nothing to the caption. The reluctance to mention racial appearance in the Indian photo with the Russian, and SoS Condi, gives semi-comical results, but are we always to mention race? Conveying useful very brief verbal summaries of images is a very difficult thing. Johnbod (talk) 13:47, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your insigntful comments.
  • I redid the alt text for the gold coin to mention profile, diadem, and inscription, and changed "well-fed" (which is OR) to "plump", resulting in 'A gold coin shows paired, profiled busts of a plump man and woman. The man is in front and wears a diadem and drapery. At top is the word "ΑΔΕΛΦΩΝ".' Identifying the figures in the alt text would be counterproductive, as it would repeat the caption; in this sense alt text takes a different role than the single description that's often in coin catalogs, which contains a mixture of alt-text-like and caption-like text.
  • I improved the alt text for the philosopher image to add "with furrowed brow and unruly hair", which indicates the style of the statue (realistic rather than idealized) without involving OR.
  • The alt text for the Moses example was intended for that picture's use in Ten Commandments in Roman Catholicism. I agree that different alt text would be appropriate in an art-history article, alt text that would focus more on the painting's visual style than on the scene it depicts.
  • As far as I know there is no alt text "a man in a wig looking left" anywhere in Wikipedia; that is a rhetorical example being used in some arguments against alt text. The alt text actually used in Bernard Williams #Critique of Kantianism is:
"Head of a man viewed from his upper left so that his brightly lit left forehead, receding hairline, and sharp nose dominate the image. He looks downward with a serious expression. He wears a modestly sized 18th-century-style wig and something small and white at his throat; the rest of his clothing is so black that it merges into the black background."
In the context of a philosophical article this could well be trimmed down a bit, but certainly this alt text does not have the problem of adding "next to nothing to the caption".
  • Race is admittedly a sensitive issue, in both alt text and in main article text. This can also be true for other visual attributes, e.g., "plump". The basic idea is that if an aspect like race or weight is a striking component of the visual appearance, then it should be mentioned; otherwise not. Editorial judgment is obviously required here.
  • With all the above in mind, I still don't see how writing alt text is typicaaly a very difficult thing. Yes, there can be tough cases, but generally speaking it's not a serious problem. One can write the alt text for a typical image in two or three minutes; its more-difficult aspects (uploading the image, captioning it, sourcing the caption, and integrating it with the text) typically take far longer than this.
Eubulides (talk) 21:43, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
  • As my tuppenceworth, 2 requiring "brief and useful alt text for images essential to a complete understanding of the article" sets a reasonable minimum standard, so that use with a screen reader is at least feasible. With any other images, editors should be encouraged to either add concise and helpful alt text, or to use |link= to hide the image link from the screen reader, subject to image license attribution requirements if applicable. 3 has an added comma: to me, "Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required, except for images essential to a complete understanding of the article." seems to imply that it's not encouraged where the image is essential for understanding. Malleus's phrasing as "Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required except for images essential to a complete understanding of the article." makes better sense, but perhaps would be better put as "Brief and useful alt text is required for images essential to a complete understanding of the article, and is strongly encouraged but not required for other images, which where possible should incorporate |link= to hide these decorative images from a screen reader." . . dave souza, talk 11:17, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
  • As with many MOS-related discussions, the discussion itself is likely to consume more bandwidth and energy than adding alt-text to every single FA ever will. And, as with other MOS issues at FAC, it is so easy to do that if the FA writer or nominator doesn't do it, it's always easy to find someone who will take a few minutes to do it. I have still never encountered an otherwise worthy FAC on which I (or someone else) couldn't and didn't easily fix MOS issues. So, I support Eubulides' effort to make Wikipedia more accessible to a wider audience, and concur with his choices of 4 or 5. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:58, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
If alt text is included in FAs, it should obviously meet the general FA standards. The examples mentioned here, on the Pavel Bure FAC, and those on the WP:ALT page, suggest that producing Alt text of FA standard is neither quick nor easy. Johnbod (talk) 15:23, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Quite. That is easy to produce any old alt text is not the issue. as what has certainly been more than adequately demonstrated is that producing useful and accurate alt text is very far from easy. I find it curious that the FAC requirement is just for the presence of alt text, not even requiring good alt text. --Malleus Fatuorum 15:32, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I looked at the Pavel Bure alt text and it is neither short nor concise. Are the ages e.g. "in their thirties" from reliable sources? Is the presence of a "carved wooden table" important? —Mattisse (Talk) 15:42, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Quite so! The original issue there concerned the lead pic alt text, which after 10 days or so & the attention of 4 editors, has now been improved and included as an example at WP:ALT. You can see the first, much longer but less informative, text alongside. Johnbod (talk) 15:57, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
  • The previous comments greatly exaggerate how much work it takes to write alt text. It doesn't take four editors five days to write alt text for a FA! A more accurate estimate would be one editor and ten minutes. Sure, editors could quibble about the result afterward, just as editors can quibble about any part of an FA. But the actual work is not that great.
  • "I find it curious that the FAC requirement is just for the presence of alt text, not even requiring good alt text." Nor do the FA criteria explicitly require that images be good. Nor do they explicitly require that the citations be good. WP:FACR does not, and need not, explicitly call out "good" for every single aspect of FAs.
  • A phrase like "in their thirties" is meant to be an abbreviation about appearance, not a possibly-controversial assertion about chronological age. If this isn't clear in practice, the phrase can be replaced by "about thirty". It's not a big deal either way.
  • For almost any alt text, there will be judgment calls, such as whether Image:Vladimir Putin in the United States 13-16 November 2001-20.jpg should mention the carved oval wooden table. Some editors could easily say it should be there, to indicate to a visually impaired reader the level of formality of the meeting; others could just as easily argue that it should be absent. (I wrote the previous sentence before seeing Graham87's remark that he found the detail useful; I would weigh his comment heavily since he uses a screen reader.) Editorial judgment is obviously required in matters like these, and reasonable editors will disagree in some cases.
  • In practice there is rarely controversy over whether a particular descriptive phrase should be in alt text. I've already seen far more controversy in this talk page about this issue than I've seen in weeks of reviewing real FAs, and I've reviewed them all.
  • "the discussion itself is likely to consume more bandwidth and energy than adding alt-text to every single FA ever will" At first I thought this statment was sheer hyperbole but on doing the math I found that it's within an order of magnitude or so of being literally true. Currently this thread (including #Alt text helps the visually impaired) contains about 23,000 words. As a back of the envelope guess, that's enough for about 1,000 images' worth of alt text, or about 200 featured articles. If we few editors had written alt text instead of laboring to complain about it and to respond to those complaints, we'd already be nearing 10% done in covering all the existing FAs with alt text, thereby directly benefiting the visually impaired. Wouldn't that make more sense?
Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

Summing up

My reading of the above is as follows:

Supporting alt text for all images as mandatory at FA: Eubulides, David Fuchs, Moni3, YellowMonkey, Peregrine Fisher, Sandy Georgia

Objecting to alt text for all images as mandatory: SlimVirgin, Philcha, Risker, Malleus_Fatuorum, Dweller, Dabomb87, Matisse, Graham87 [1]

Unclear: Awadewit, Ealdgyth, Johnbod, dave souza

And that the alternative sentences favoured are:

2. "It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, brief and useful alt text for images essential to a complete understanding of the article, and acceptable copyright status.


3. "It has images that follow the image use policy and other media where appropriate, with succinct captions, and acceptable copyright status. Brief and useful alt text is encouraged, but not required, except for images essential to a complete understanding of the article."

People should check that I've listed their views correctly, and that I haven't left anyone out. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:11, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

After reading through the discussion, and thinking about my own views, I do not strictly object to requiring alt text for all images (EDIT: excluding those used only for decorative purposes); in fact, I think I lean toward that more than only "encouraging". However, I do think alt text should be made mandatory for images that are vitally important to the article. Of course, if we can't decide what "vital" means, then I think alt text should be mandatory for all images. One thing though, I think someone—probably Eubublides, as he is the expert, and Graham87, since he's the type of editor for whom we're writing alt text—should write an easy-to-understand tutorial about writing alt text (like WP:ALT without so much detail and technical information). I also heard that someone is writing a Signpost dispatch about this with an interview of Graham87; how is that coming along? Dabomb87 (talk) 03:20, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • SlimVirgin's summary does not accurately represent the comments made by editors. As far as I know, nobody other than Dabomb87 (just now) supported requiring alt text for all images. WP:ALT and the W3G guidelines clearly say that alt text is not needed for purely decorative images. (I expect that Dabomb87 would agree with this exception, once reminded of it.)
  • Eubulides, you said elsewhere that purely decorative images should be removed, so I don't understand how you're using the term. Can you show us an example of an image in a current FA that does not need alt text in your view because it's purely decorative? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:15, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • There seems to be some confusion here, as I wrote "My argument did not say or imply that purely decorative images should be removed." (Perhaps you missed the "not" in that statement? That might explain the confusion.) Below, I explain what I mean by "purely decorative" and give an example featured article Australia at the Winter Olympics that contains seven purely decorative images. Eubulides (talk) 23:40, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
    • You're right, I was assuming that we all agreed that there was no need for alt text for decorative images. Dabomb87 (talk) 13:37, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Neither (2) nor (3) fairly reflect what Wikipedia and W3C guidelines/policy say, or what editors supporting alt text are saying. The existing wording, possibly with "except for purely decorative images" appended, better reflects that consensus.
  • SlimVirgin's summary is not accurate as a head count. It listed Risker and Dweller as opposing alt text requirements, but Risker made no comments about alt text, and Dweller's comments, although not in favor of alt text, did not clearly object to the requirements either. If it's that easy to be counted as an opponent of alt text requirements, why weren't (for example) Xover and Graham87 listed as proponents?
  • The summary also omitted Graham87's repeated endorsement of alt text. The opinion of a blind reader of Wikipedia should carry considerable weight.
  • Multiple reliable sources, cited near the start of #Alt text helps the visually impaired, support the claim that alt text helps visually impaired readers. The claim that alt text does not help the visually impaired is not supported by reliable sources.
  • I'd be happy to write a tutorial if that would help. Currently, for tutorial material we have a couple of paragraphs in WP:PIC #Thumbnails, along with the lead to WP:ALT. If that's not enough, I suggest refactoring WP:ALT so that the tutorial material is more to the front (each point with an example), and the more detailed technical stuff is more to the end.

Eubulides (talk) 07:05, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

The way I read Graham's comments he was saying alt text wasn't useful much of the time. One of the problems with this situation, as I see it, is that alt text is being required for all images by stealth. The current text says "when feasible," but that's not defined. You say that images that are "purely decorative" don't need it, also not defined. So can we have some clear definitions from you, please, and examples of FA images that don't require alt text? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:21, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • The term "purely decorative" is defined in WP:ALT as an image that has no function (for example, nothing happens when you click on it) and conveys no additional useful information. This is intended to reflect the common technical meaning of "purely decorative" used by the W3G. For details, please see WP:ALT and the sources cited in WP:ALT #Sources.
  • Featured articles routinely contain purely decorative images. For example, the content of Australia at the Winter Olympics contains eight images, seven of which are purely decorative; Image:Saguenay 500m.jpg is the only image in that article that has (or needs) alt text. The ratio of purely decorative images is unusually high in that example, but it's quite common for featured articles to contain some purely decorative images. For example, Autism, which I help maintain, contains one.
I can see only one image in Australia at the Winter Olympics, the one you said needed alt text. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:08, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Which browser are you using? I can clearly see eight images. For example, the lead image, in the infobox, is purely decorative. It is Image:Flag_of_Australia.svg, and it's the default size for thumbnail images (180px wide). The other decorative images are much smaller. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I don't recall Graham87 ever writing that alt text "wasn't useful much of the time". On the contrary, in his most recent comment expressing his preference, he wrote "I strongly support the use of alt text"[2]. His only qualm was that he dislikes conflict and doesn't want us arguing about it. Opposing alt text on the ground that the opposition causes Graham87 to mute his evident strong support for it isn't opposition based on evidence: it's opposition based on a circular argument. And listing Graham87 as an opponent of the alt text requirement is a misrepresentation of his position, just as listing Risker is, and underlines the fact that the above summary of the discussion is not at all a fair summary.
Graham said he did not want alt text to be mandatory. See his comment here. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:08, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
And alt text is not mandatory. It's not required for purely decorative images. The current guideline is entirely consistent with Graham's comments, and has been modified on multiple occasion to better reflect his suggestions. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "required for all images by stealth" First, it's not being required for all images. Second, there is no "stealth" here; the requirement is stated plainly and has been thoroughly discussed.
It is being required for all images. When I ask you what type it's not being required for, you say "not decorative" ones. When I ask you what that means you say images that have no function. What does that mean? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:08, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
No, alt text is not being required for all images. It is not required for purely decorative images. These are images that are not needed for the understanding or use of the article. By "no function" I meant, roughly, "nothing happens when you click on them". Please see WP:ALT and the sources that it cites for the gory details. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • The "when feasible" phrase was intended to allow for problems in the MediaWiki software, which as far as I know have all been overcome since it was added; it can be removed at our convenience (though I'd rather not do this in the middle of this unrelated dispute).
Eubulides (talk) 23:40, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • There are still many infoboxes, for instance, that don't support an alt text parameter. --Malleus Fatuorum 00:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • That's correct. Support has been added for infoboxes used by articles at FAC or FAR as they come up. So far, we haven't run into any infobox that can't be fixed. It's generally pretty easy to fix them. This problem is a real one, but it has been less than anticipated. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Graham87 also said more than once that he liked alt text to be "concise" and "short and succinct, about the same length as a typical caption". He also said he preferred that colours not be used in alt text, and I thought he said some where that he wished decorative images to have alt text. Regards, —mattisse (Talk) 23:50, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Yes, and that's why WP:FACR and WP:ALT emphasize "brief", and WP:ALT gives examples of why alt text should not emphasize colors. I don't recall anywhere he suggested that purely decorative images should have alt text. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Graham said: "I find alt text helpful when it describes properties of an image that are easy to discern for sighted people but aren't appropriate for a caption (e.g. roughly what a logo looks like, the text of a cartoon). I really don't know what I'm missing out on when I've never seen an image. I think alt text should be encouraged in FA's, but not required where their use would be impractical." [3] SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:08, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Yes, and that "impractical" is the source of the "when feasible" phrase in the current WP:FACR. Eubulides (talk) 02:39, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Discussion at FAR

Please see Wikipedia talk:Featured article review#Changes to instructions. Participation at FAR is seriously lagging (I'm guilty: I used to work a lot there, but haven't had time lately, while I have noticed an increase in FAs delisted). Based on recent changes to the page instructions (which I reverted, as discussion is needed), the page seems to be changing from a place where many editors worked together to improve articles to a place where delisting is almost assumed. Broader discussion and review of this trend is needed; the proposed changes to long-standing FAR nomination instructions may lead the direction of encouraging multiple driveby nominations at FAR, with limited incentive for editors to work towards saving and improving FAs. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:35, 21 July 2009 (UTC)


I'm officially begging for some people to go through the list in the next couple days and provide some thorough reviews. Many of the noms have drive-by reviews that pick out little things, but the vast majority are missing any kind of comprehensive review. I just reviewed one that has sat there for almost a month without attention to even basic MoS issues. Por favor, per favore, bitte, I'll buy you some Krispy Kremes. --Andy Walsh (talk) 17:01, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Are you referring to FAC or FAR? If the latter, I urge you to read User:YellowMonkey's carefully considered comments at Wikipedia talk:Featured article review#Changes_to_instructions. Regards, —Mattisse (Talk) 17:11, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm referring to FAC. --Andy Walsh (talk) 17:18, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, never mind then. Why do you have this new name? It is confusing! (Are you trying it out before making the big switch?) —Mattisse (Talk) 17:29, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't think I'll switch... I was just inspired by a rash of people using their actual names on the site. I didn't stop to consider that it might be confusing, so I do apologize for that. --Andy Walsh (talk) 17:39, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I dunno - am I even welcome to comment? I don't know the MOS like the back of my hand like many do, so I'm not sure I could say anything that would add to what's been said. I tend to have lower standards than most of the "veterans" here, so while I might think something meets criteria, another may not. It makes me look foolish if I support something, then another comes along and points out several obvious flaws - that I missed simply because there is so much to consider. I've commented occasionally on FACs (including, I believe the one you mentioned) but rarely do because I feel my comments are simply inferior and unnecessary. Majorly talk 17:31, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Pish. Your comments are as worthy as anyone else's. Grammar wonks pay attention to grammar. Science geeks pay attention to science. I've been known to use wrackspurts as inspiration to make comments on an article. If it doesn't seem right, or something seems off, or it creates questions that it does not answer, then I state them in my comments. Although I admit when I first started watching FAC, I was slow to jump in for the same reasons you state. Since then I have been a regular commenter. Now, however, I sheepishly admit that I haven't taken a gander at an FAC for weeks or months. I have to get back in the swing. --Moni3 (talk) 17:35, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Seconded. I hope I didn't come across as impugning anyone's feedback—that was far from my intent. As Moni pointed out, most people look at certain aspects of the article. I tend to look mostly at prose, while others focus on images, sources, and so on. It takes a village to raise an FA, har har. --Andy Walsh (talk) 17:39, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
(ec) Moni is right of course. Reviewing is about building a consensus, it is not about looking clever, (or foolish). Graham. Graham Colm Talk 17:40, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm out of breakfast food. Awadewit (talk) 17:44, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
! That looks like a really dry text from last night. Deliciously random. --Moni3 (talk) 17:45, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I just can't keep it in stock. Awadewit (talk) 02:51, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

It's worth pointing out that if articles are thoroughly prepared before their FAC nomination they will need less attention at FAC. The extent of FAC comments isn't necessarily an indication of the review attention the article has received – some have had thorough workovers at PR, for example. For me, PR is the boiler room, FAC the finishing school – but it often doesn't work that way. Brianboulton (talk) 08:49, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I wish it were more often so. As it is, the first thing I do before reviewing an FAC is check to see if it went through PR. If I see that you or a handful of others have gone through it at PR, I exhale heavily knowing that the article is far more likely to be up to par (assuming they've acted on your suggestions). --Andy Walsh (talk) 15:24, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I've never taken an article to PR, and don't entirely see the point of it, but that's just me I guess. :-) --Malleus Fatuorum 16:17, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Peer review, is, to say the least, beneficial to some, and not to others. Just like rest, it makes some people galvanized and some people grouchy. :) Malleus, you are one of the most prolific writers around here anyway. ceranthor 16:24, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
They are understaffed, for sure. Malleus, most editors don't have rainbows of perfect prose shooting out of their arse fingers. They need some help before coming to FAC. --Andy Walsh (talk) 16:55, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Malleus' familiar. --Moni3 (talk) 16:58, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
That's not my familiar, that's me. --Malleus Fatuorum 17:09, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
How to make PR work: WP:FCDW/March 17, 2008. (Someone please give me a hint on the breakfast food.) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:15, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Sadly, PR is more of a failure than FAC. For every two people that I've had review a page that sat there for a month at FAC, I had half of one to perform a peer review. The only time I had any serious reviews (even from regulars) at FAC was once. The other times, I've had less than 3 serious reviews. Ottava Rima (talk) 04:47, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I can't work that out, but PR is not a failure, although its usefulness is hampered by shortage of reviewers prepared to spend time there, so many articles don't get the detailed treatment they need. It is unglamorous, out of the limelight, not the place for showponies or cleverdicks. The answer is for more people to spend more time there; that would benefit both PR and FAC. Brianboulton (talk) 10:57, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I think characterising editors who choose not to get involved at PR as "showponies or cleverdicks" is rather unkind. The reason I choose not to get involved is that there's no closure at PR, unlike GAN and FAC, it just seems like busy work to no real benefit. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:42, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm not characterising anyone as anything – that remark was lighthearted. But I am sad that you see "no real benefit" in the time spent at PR. Is it really of no benefit that at least some articles reach FAC in a far better state than they would otherwise? Without PR there would be many more inappropriate FAC nominations, and many more of those article-building marathons that so clutter the page. I have only been fully active at PR for six months or so, but in that time I have seen several articles I saw being built at peer review from very raw beginnings go through the FAC process successfully; plenty of benefit (and reward) in that. Brianboulton (talk) 21:07, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
Fine, then continue your good work at PR. My point quite simply is that I see see no reason to be abusive towards those of us who choose to spend our time elsewhere. --Malleus Fatuorum 23:11, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I think you should lighten up – it was a facetious comment, and I apologise if you felt targeted by it. I also think this conversation should end. Brianboulton (talk) 23:24, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
It is not for you to decide when a conversation should end. If I had called you a "showpony", or a "cleverdick" I would have been blocked for "incivility". Again. --Malleus Fatuorum 23:41, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps we can return to this discussion when there aren't any FACs. :) Awadewit (talk) 23:45, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
Malleus, I know nothing of your past record of incivility and have no wish to compete with you over this. It is abundantly clear that I have not called you or any other editor by these names, and I have apologised for any perceived insult. But, as you wish the discussion to continue, before you say anything else just consider your edit, above: "I've never taken an article to PR, and don't entirely see the point of it, but that's just me I guess. :-)" Can't you see how offensive it is (especially the smiley face) for editors who spend dozens of hours at PR every week trying to help knock articles into FAC-shape, to have their efforts diminished in this way? There may be a few gifted prose writers (I'm certainly not one) who can spin prose effortlessly and whose articles don't need much attention before coming here, and others who can call on networks of associates for help. There are, however, many whose best hope of developing their work to featured class is through the PR process, and it is those we try to serve, however imperfectly. The benefit for FAC may be largely unseen, but is considerable. If you are satisfied that your own work doesn't need this process, that's OK, but I would ask you to show more respect for what it is trying to do. The last word is yours, if you wish to take it. Brianboulton (talk) 12:13, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
It's hot down here in the boiler room. Finetooth (talk) 19:55, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Presumably a result of all the hard work I see being done? Graham. Graham Colm Talk 21:09, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

NPG images

Does anyone know if we have (or should have) a policy regarding the use of Those Images at FA level? My personal opinion is that, although the morality of the way the images were acquired was rather dubious, the NPG images are generally higher quality than those available elsewhere, and if the WMF are satisfied that the legal challenge is without foundation and the images are free-use, we ought to be using the best available image regardless of how it came to be acquired. (I suppose the ethical equivalent would be living in a house originally built by slave labor, or present-day doctors using procedures derived from Mengele's experiments.) However, there are obvious negatives in that there's a potential that the images could all suddenly vanish; that increased use of the images in high-profile could increase the WMF's liability if it does wind up in court; and that a disputed image could wind up on the main page and lead to a further flurry of adverse publicity.

Although it's only a small number of images, because the NPG collection contains large numbers of bishops, military figures and politicians, it will have a disproportionate effect on FAs. – iridescent 15:45, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

The images have not been deleted and their copyright is, from the Foundation's legal standpoint, solid. We should retain them. We should not start removing these images from articles under the mere threat of NPG action or their dislike of us using the images. Awadewit (talk) 15:48, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I wasn't so much thinking of deleting them, as whether they should be added (most of them were only uploaded in May). As per my comments above, I tend to agree with you – as long as the WMF accepts the license we should be using them as they're generally better quality than the alternatives – but potentially unfree images at FAC generally create a disproportionate amount of sound & light. (The particular situation that set this line of thought off is Mandell Creighton, which I'm shortly going to start rewriting; while there are two undisputed images already in the article, the NPG images include a much better quality image. There's no point adding it if it's just going to set off a lengthy editwar and a 100kb thread at any potential GAC/FAC, so I wanted to clear the situation up first.) – iridescent 16:23, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I would definitely include them - there is no reason not to at this point - and they are free, in my opinion. :) Awadewit (talk) 16:41, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
The NPG images should be included when they are better. Certainly the Foundation is on strong legal ground. As for the ethical issue, this is not like the slave-labor house at all. A better analogy would be the people who sheltered fugitive slaves in the north before the U.S. Civil War, despite legal threats by southerners. Eubulides (talk) 17:49, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Is there a corollary to Godwin's Law? I feel like this discussion about slavery might fit that, if there were. Let's leave the analogy alone, as it really does not apply at all here. There is no life and death situation for anyone involved here. Awadewit (talk) 17:54, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Over-referencing is now a big problem

There's an increasing trend towards bunging in references (usually the same one) at the end of just about every sentence. This is unacceptable practice throughout the publishing industry, and for the same reason should be here too. In Ralph Bakshi, a particularly bad example, I saw 25 of Ref 11 in a row, sentence after sentence. How to irritate our readers for no benefit.

Generally, one reference at the end will cover most or all of a paragraph, if that paragraph runs smoothly and contains no contentious statements (which require a separate ref.).

I suspect wall-to-wall ref. numbers saves people from the decision-making required to ration down referencing to something that balances utility with precise sourcing. In this respect, it resembles smart linking, where we avoid the scattergun approach. Tony (talk) 08:58, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Unlike most of the "publishing industry", Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit. Thus, anyone can go and later insert new information (happens all the time) into a Wikipedia article and thus destroying the connection between the sourcing and the sentence. Having citations at every sentence helps reduce the chances of this happen, which tends not to be a problem with print sources or non-open web sources. So not only is there a benefit, the comparison to the "publishing industry" is not entirely comparable. Aboutmovies (talk) 09:22, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
For Albert, Prince Consort, I put the extra citations in as hidden comments: such as <!-- reference -->. DrKiernan (talk) 09:43, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Tony's right. There's no need to repeat the same reference for adjacent sentences. One reference at the end of the paragraph is enough. Wikipedia is primarily for readers, not for editors; and the unnecessary references waste readers' time. Eubulides (talk) 09:45, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
A different but related problem is over-specificity in citations. If a given fact is provided on page n of a book, and another fact is given on page n+1, these tend to be given as two separate references. This is, IMO, one extreme end of the WP:V scale (where the other end is lack of in-line citations, merely giving a bibliography at the end). Some good sense is, I feel, required here; so that we trust the readers ability to scan, say, 5–10 pages—or even a whole chapter—of a book to find the information, instead of specifying that it's in the second clause of the fifth sentence in the third paragraph on page n in the book. Iff we had a citation system (in the Cite.php sense, not the Harvard sense) that tagged whole sentences or clauses to identify they're source, and an editing mechanic that preserved this association transparently, then I might lean to extreme precision; but not with the current referencing system. Incidentally, I've participated in FAC reviews where a reviewer complained of an excessive number of references (not per sentence/para; the sheer number of lines down in the References section!), but at the same time I meet substantial resistance to attempts to combine references along the lines above (merge adjacent pages into one ref). In other words, I think this thread is quite timely, and that it'd be worthwhile to do some more thinking on this issue (references in general, not my particular little pet opinion here). --Xover (talk) 09:46, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I'd generally agree with Xover, with two exceptions. One is that the exact page number (if applicable) should be given for direct quotations. Also, if a fact is in an unexpected part of the source, then a specific description of the location should be given. --Jc3s5h (talk) 09:55, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree with Aboutmovies, but think DrKiernan's solution might be a good one. --Dweller (talk) 09:56, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I've used DrKiernan's solution when working in controversial areas (think Barack Obama; no, even worse than that, think Chiropractic), but it's pretty much a waste of time in articles that are not battlegrounds. As for citing exact page numbers, please see #Specific citations below. Eubulides (talk) 10:08, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I can see the following reasons for "over-citing" (there may be others):
  • To handle switching between sources, e.g. (A says) this is the general pattern but (B says) there are significant exceptions; in another aspect (A says) this is the general pattern but (C says) there are significant exceptions. I see no alternative to frequent citations here.
  • To prevent interpolations by other editors from breaking the connection between source and text. This is almost a variation on the previous one, especially if we get lucky and the interpolation comes with a citation.
  • Over-fussy reviewers.
  • Long-term I think the best solution would be an enhancement to Mediawiki so that, if it sees 2 or more identical citations (including named ones) it rolls them up into one, placed at the endf the sequence or para, which ever ends first. --Philcha (talk) 11:08, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Agree with Philcha. I am so used to seeing the little blue subscripts I tune them out. A show/hide switch for inline refs would be great for casual readers. I have gotten tired of {{cn} tags being slapped on things, but I do like DrK's hidden refs alot. Casliber (talk · contribs) 11:53, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Repeating the same reference within a paragraph without other intervening references is simply wrong: one citation at the end of the paragraph is appropriate. However, if a paragraph is based on a secondary source, cited at the end of the paragraph, but includes quotations from a primary source available online, it's useful to provide a citation at each quotation or specific allusion to the primary source. This can then lead to a demand for a secondary source for the section before each primary citation, hence repetition of the same secondary source. Don't think there's an easy way around that. It's also awkward when a source is cited numerous times using the ref name= tag: after about four uses, it gets very hard to decide whether to click e or f to get back to the inline citation. Where that's happening, more specific references to page numbers can reduce the problem. In both cases, the problem isn't over-referencing, it's repetitive use of the same reference. Always, it's a judgement call. . dave souza, talk 14:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
It's not wrong, it's exactly how it should be. One statement, one source. If the source used 10 times in a paragraph, good, I want to know it. I want to be able to verify everything with the least possible ammount of effort. "Jim was born in Spain in 1024." Oh was he? Got a source? "He was an cloistered monk." Oh was he? Got a source? If you only put one at the end of the entire "Jim was born in England in 1024. He was an cloistered monk.[ref]", then when another editor comes in and says "Jim was born in England in 1024. He was ordained priest at the age of 13, but resigned due to a crisis of faith at age 17. He then became a cloistered monk.[ref]" Now you have new statement, which looks to be supported by the citation at the end of the paragraphs, but that might not necessarily be the case since its a new editor, and you don't know where S/HE got his statement from. So cite everything, every idea, every pebble that you can possibly cite, and be as specific as possible. If it's on a new page, then make a new citation with that new page. (Or instead give a page range that covers the whole thing). If you give me a book's page number, I have to assume you meant that it's on that page.
We want to build bullet-proof articles, who can be verified and corrected with the greatest of ease. One statement, one reference. Headbomb {ταλκκοντριβς – WP Physics} 23:15, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I understand where you're coming from, since I often have to revert junk edits which suggest legitimacy by being followed by a source, but the fact is that our citation methods take us space and reduce legibility. It's extra work for us to keep track of what's being cited, but in the interest of readers it's best to use as few refs calls as possible. It makes them mean more, in my opinion. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 23:34, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Look on the bright side, at least these wee links are less intrusive than the classic Harvard referencing style (Chambers 1987) still used in many scholarly books. It's worthwhile thinking about how to combine or minimise the number of citation links, but the priority is easy referencing. (Confession – I made that reference up) . . dave souza, talk 08:11, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "One statement, one source" I demanded the same for things that would seem unusual or specific and it was shot down by overwhelming consensus in response to my argument. The consensus is that if a source is used, it covers all preceding comments within that paragraph and all quotes must be directly sourced afterward. Ottava Rima (talk) 18:00, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

I'd like to note that when I've approached editors about this problem, they usually state that the over-referencing exists because they "were told to do it" or someone challenged them for under-referencing. It's one of those areas where editors and, more to the point, GA and FA seekers get mixed messages from reviewers. I think DrKiernan's solution is a great one, but I'm also wary of asking editors to do extra work to satiate reference-lust. At FAR, you see comments like "some paragraphs only have one citation" all the time. The solution is to adjust our comments in the venues where content is vetted (Peer Review, GAN, FAC) and make sure we are sending consistent messages. When someone correctly comments that there are too many references, we need to back them up. If someone wrongly asks for more, we need to educate them. --Andy Walsh (talk) 18:13, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Specific citations

  • For books, a citation to the book chapter suffices, particularly in fields where most books are online and you can just do an online search. Maybe for dusty-book fields like 19th-century English lit one might have to go to page numbers, or cite specific column numbers in papyri, or whatever.
  • Come to think of it, maybe we should add a new template for that? Something like "{{cite papyrus |name=Oxyrhynchus |fragment=P.Oxy.XX 2260 |column=i |line=20 |word=4}}", perhaps? And in case you think I'm making this up, please see an image of the papyrus column in question, with that word being the first one of the phrase circled in red.
  • Hey! Maybe we should require this sort of thing for all citations! Isn't this what WP:V is all about? If you can't say something like "I'm citing W word from X location of Y manuscript, which is in Z drawer in V room in the Sackler Library, Oxford" then your citation is not being specific enough!

Eubulides (talk) 10:08, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

The latter clause of that isn't quite as ridiculous as it may at first sound. In Shakespeare studies, for example, it's often interesting to know that, e.g., the Malone papers are in a given library and collection, and what part of that collection it's in, as well as its internal call numer in the collection. For some edge cases where it's more appropriate to cite the primary source (typically for quotes, or even comparative quotes) this would be quite usefull, even if not quite critical in a wider context. This issue is, of course, orthogonal to my original argument. --Xover (talk) 10:42, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Chapters of books vary in length from under 10 to 30-50 - those with longer chapters often break them into sections. So we need some sort of guideline about how large a block of cited pages should be - but it would have to be applied quite flexibly, as natural divisions in the source might vary a lot. --Philcha (talk) 11:01, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Surely it's a matter of context: if a paragraph is cited to one or a few pages in a book, it makes sense to cite that paragraph to those specific pages. Much easier to check when looking back at the book, and so very useful. Many books aren't available online, and even with previews many pages of books aren't included. The alternative of grouping together as one ref name= all the references to a chapter would cause confusion and be much less useful when looking up the reference. . dave souza, talk 14:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
As dave souza says, it's a matter of context. However that cuts both ways. For example if you understand the consequences of segmentation, tagmosis and cuticle in arthropods, you understand arthropods - and it's probably helpful to combine the cites of the relevant sections of the source, if they are adjacent. Similarly the three main body forms in sponges may be part of a section on water flow management, and this explains the reasons for the body forms. I think "horses for courses" applies. --Philcha (talk) 10:47, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

From Sandy's talkpage

Statements were copied from User talk:SandyGeorgia and reflect statements as of this diff. Ottava Rima (talk) 14:26, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Hi Sandy, I just wanted to alert you to this, which relates to this. It's a bad precedent that bad-mouthing of a reviewer occur either on the FAC page or elsewhere. We'll lose reviewers easily that way. Tony (talk) 16:15, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Very true. Bullying and badmouthing lost me as a serious reviewer of FAC. Regards, —Mattisse (Talk) 16:53, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
Hey Tony, I'm sorry that you were offended. Perhaps a better way of handling your hurt would have been to post on my talk page, or via email, and let us work things out. I don't think I would recommend the route you took, of posting on my talk page that you had "complained" to the two FA delegates, and also posting at length in FAC. Did that make the process regarding this article better or fairer? Did that make me more likely to accept your comments as borne of a genuine desire to improve Wikipedia? My comment, which was on another editor's talk page, was born of frustration. Tony, what emotion sparked you to post what you did on the FAC page for the article, and on Karanac's talk page, and on SandyGeorgia's talk page, and then to tell me what you had done? Was that the right thing to do? Think about it please.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:58, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
It is easy to get frustrated with users who state things such as "'Communistic' is not a word I've seen before" without going to the dictionary. A review should be analyzing the work, not just stating things that seem right without checking. It is also bad form to demand blanket copyediting without specifying each and every aspect, as many people's understanding of grammar isn't perfect, and many of the "rules" they cling to are actually just personal taste. Then there are statements like "where there's an "of" to the right, put a "the" to the left", if applied, would make some of the most well written pieces become the most absurd and laughable. "Joseph of Arimathea" would become "the Joseph of the Arimathea". Or, better yet, "Gospel of John" would become "the Gospel of the John" in some of the most absurd instances. I think if people are going to claim some rule about copy editing they be forced to provide a citation. "Of" -rarely- uses a definite or indefinite article. You only use an indefinite or definite article if you are trying to define something as definite or indefinite. Not because there is an "of" in the sentence! I've seen some of the worse things claimed as necessary copy editing and people just don't care. It is one thing to promote the use of proper English, it is another thing to promote the use of something that you basically just made up on your own. Tony, if you aren't able to get the English grammar rules, don't be insulted when someone takes offense to your review. Ottava Rima (talk) 02:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Take offence to your review? And you are lecturing me about grammar? Ottava. And you take a rule of thumb about "of" and "the" and twist it to try to make me look foolish. Have you not better things to do than vent your own frustration? Naturally, there are instances where the rule of thumb often does not apply: formal names and titles is one. We have a rule against starting an article or section title with "The", don't we? I suggest you turn your efforts to improving nominations, not throwing mud over a messenger. Tony (talk) 03:05, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes, to. It is -to-. You know, the word that expresses "towards" another object. It is not offense "in", it is not offense "at", it is offense to, logically and grammatically. Your words are a separate entity that he is expressing an idea that follows in a motion based path towards it. That is why -you- don't have any right to put up reviews and then cry about not knowing what the hell you are talking about. You are foolish, just as you are foolish right now. Get over yourself. Your arrogance is destroying this place. Either put up the rules with direct links to verifiable websites to verify it, or stop in general. The reason why I say to put up the rules is that you make up a lot of what you state. I'm tired of people putting up pure bs and opposing over their fake "grammar". Ottava Rima (talk) 13:39, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
It wasn't me who used the word communistic anyway, it was Helen Douglas. I didn't want to do a quote there because it was a paragraph already overburdened with quotes, but I kept that word. My choice of words, even if frustrated, was bad, but the response should not be trying to sink the article and the editor as well. I've had at least three FACs where Tony has come in, made one or two points, and said "go get a copyedit". It's just not enough guidance ...--Wehwalt (talk) 02:32, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
My view: I think people, including myself, are definitely reluctant to post articles to FAC if all reviewers say is "Get a copyedit" and provide a few scant examples of so-called issues with prose. That isn't a review in any real sense of the word. It is especially a problem if the articles has already had multiple copyedits by several editors. Demanding yet more is an unreasonable request, especially if the reviewer will not actually point out the problem, but instead pick "random examples". It's simply not enough. If people are going to review FACs, they should do it thoroughly. On a rare occasion I participate on a FAC, I read the article from top to bottom and list all the things I find an issue, if any. I find this is much more helpful to the nominator than bluntly suggesting an umpteenth copyedit. Majorly talk 02:41, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
That's just about as straw a man as I've ever seen put up. The point of having multiple reviewers at FAC is that they are therefore free to look at whichever aspects of an article they choose. If you want every single fault in an article pointed out by every single reviewer then take it to peer review; FAC is for articles that can reasonably be considered to be the finished product. Those with basic spelling and grammar errors can hardly be considered to be that. Tony has been just as critical of my efforts at FAC as anyone else's, as have others such as Fowler&fowler, but I don't cry foul and take my ball home in a huff. I take their comments to heart and using the examples given I try to address them. What's so hard about that? --Malleus Fatuorum 03:19, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I might add that it's the quality of the copy-edit that matters, not how many were done before or during FAC. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:50, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
So do I. I got the leading Nixon expert to give the article its GA here and then one of out top FA writers to do the peer review. To be met with an unspecified "get a copyedit" is frustrating.--Wehwalt (talk) 02:48, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
After I saw the kerfuffle I took a look through the article myself, and I also found several examples af areas where the article still needs work. There are no "top FA writers" anyway; many of those with a high FA count have basically written the same article over and over again. --Malleus Fatuorum 03:27, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I thought in that thread on Mattisse's talk page that you were going to have a run through the article.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:32, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I agreed that I would, But what has that to do with this discussion? --Malleus Fatuorum 04:02, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
OK. That was last night. You just mentioned after you "saw this kerfuffle", so I was wondering if there were fresh issues.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:15, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
No fresh issues, I meant the kerfuffle at the FAC, not here. --Malleus Fatuorum 04:20, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
That's fine. Looking forward to see what you do with it. So is everyone else!--Wehwalt (talk) 04:24, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I understand that you're trying to niggle Tony, but why have you apparently decided to start on me as well? --Malleus Fatuorum 04:30, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
No, not what I meant. I just meant that after this mess, which I sparked, a lot rides on the copyedit and all the people in the discussion will be watching. I'd be foolish to want ot "start on" you. Please understand.--Wehwalt (talk) 04:35, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
  • We put the scoundrels' defence of "You need to specify every single thing that is wrong" behind us some years ago. Nowadays, a sample of prose issues is quite sufficient to indicate that a whole text needs attention. This is especially the case when the sample comes from the top, which you'd expect would be prepared more carefully since it's so exposed and would show on the main page when the time comes. Likewise, if the first two images are unsatisfory WRT NFC, it is reasonable for a reviewer to ask for a total audit of the images, and to return later to spot-check. Reviewers are busy and it is not their nomination (only their task to keep standards high). "Communistic" is ugly, and one syllable longer than the usual "communist" as adjective. Rima, I don't need a dictionary to tell that "ic" should be removed for smoother reading. Why does this result in a war? Tony (talk) 02:58, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Tony, I'm not warring with you. I've made that clear. I'v expressed my regret, but I'm keeping my hands down at my side and just trying to duck. What more by the way of peace overtures do you need? Please take yes for an answer. Thanks,--Wehwalt (talk) 03:14, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I should note that after replying to this discussion, Tony switched from "comments" to "strong oppose" on rather doubtful grounds.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:44, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
"Rima, I don't need a dictionary to tell that "ic" should be removed for smoother reading." Oh, heaven forbid Tony use a real dictionary instead of his own made up one! There we go, folks. Tony just admitted that he doesn't care about real grammar, but will make up his own and shove that standard down people's throats. Disruptive. Nothing more or less. Tony, if you continue trolling FAC like you are doing now, it would be better if you stopped reviewing in general. You are a net negative. We don't need such phonies. We need people who are willing to actually read articles and seek their improvement. Not make stuff up like this. And that little factual inaccuracy at the beginning is so pathetically disturbing, I don't even know what to say. An oppose to be actionable must have specifics that can be changed. Not "I have a general feeling and I'm going to hold out". FAC is not for you to grandstand, and your comments suggest that your opposes are a direct WP:POINT violation. Ottava Rima (talk) 13:45, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. Tony's switch to oppose has made it clear that he no longer cares about the merits of the article, and is out to destroy. Thus the "complaints", which he gleefully informed me of, at the FAC page, and at the pages of the two FA delegates. He would have been justified in taking mild offense. He is not justified in trying to destroy my participation at FAC. I am seriously considering going to ArbCom and asking them to reopen the case against Tony due to continued incivility.--Wehwalt (talk) 14:10, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Wehwalt, ArbCom would be inappropriate right now. Lets handle it amongst ourselves. Tony use to perform thorough reviews that actually mentioned various rules, so it would be best if we can return him to that state. ArbCom would not accomplish that. Ottava Rima (talk) 14:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

It's a pity that Sandy's talk page as a "warring" ground. Can this discussion be shifted to somewhere more appropriate, such as WT:FAC or even the discussion of the FAC in question? Dabomb87 (talk) 03:48, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

WT:FAC would be better. The FAC has enough of this in there, and as it really isn't a discussion of the quality of the article, it probably shouldn't.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:54, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
This discussion passed surreal 30 miles ago.
  1. I can't imagine Dirty Harry could bully Tony, so that claim is mystifying.
  2. Tony's guides about writing are widely used and extremely helpful, if not thoroughly vexing. They are one of the primary facets of FAC that make it both frustrating then equally satisfying when the near-impossible attention to minutiae are met. Go through enough of them and you start second guessing everything you type. It could be a neurosis, or it could be learning. It's hard to tell sometimes.
  3. What would be more disappointing here? Getting the article passed by shouting Tony down and having an FA with what appear to be concerns about writing, or working with a copy editor to iron out the prose in places? Malleus sees it. Employ him, or get a recommendation of a good copy editor. Then get another. In my experience, writing FAs is an ongoing exercise in endurance. When I started on Wikipedia, I balked at the idea that I should have to bodily travel to a library, of all the ridiculous notions. My complacence when I had a few of my articles pass apparently easily is dangerous. Articles are never finished, and they can always be improved. Only you and I and five other editors know and care enough about that bronze star. Everyone else who reads the article is either clueless or cares about something else. The worst that could happen is that the article gets a star later than you anticipated. --Moni3 (talk) 14:43, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I didn't switch to "Oppose", as claimed above, but to "Strong oppose". Tony (talk) 14:45, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
You also attacked another reviewer for supporting in that switch, Tony. Don't you see how that could be a tad problematic? Instead of seeking to work on the page, your post became a direct attack against the page and another reviewer. We need a high quality and thorough review of each and every FAC. This would probably require multiple people adding multiple components. Attacking other reviewers while putting up vague statements is not going to improve things. Plus, nominators should have the right to challenge reviewers, especially when statements are vague or confusing. I've seen some of the worse things passed off as reviews demanding blank copyediting, especially with people making statements about language that are not true. Ottava Rima (talk) 14:49, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

::::::Tony, of all people, complaining about rudeness - now I've seen everything! Jimfbleak - talk to me? 14:54, 31 July 2009 (UTC) I'd be grateful for suggestions as to a way out of this situation that satisfies Tony, that leaves this article with a path towards FA if the community decides it is worthy, and that makes me feel that my next nomination is worth putting in the many hours of research and writing. Moni, you speak of libraries. Do you know where I've been this week? Check out my image uploads. I spent Monday at the California State Archives, Tuesday driving but finding time to photograph outdoor tributes to Jerry Voorhis in Pomona, Wednesday at his archives in Claremont, and yesterday at the Nixon library in Yorba Linda. Today I am planning to go back there but I'm starting to wonder what is the point if my work is going to be shot down through animus, however blameworthy I may be for setting this off through an illconsidered comment that I've tried to make up for, Tony has surely escalated the situation. I understand Disneyland is open today ...--Wehwalt (talk) 15:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I only see one solution to this: beers at the White House. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 15:26, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

If you do a copyedit, I'll buy you one. Beer, that is.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:30, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Anyway, gotta go. I have a 10 a.m. appointment at the Nixon library and six more boxes of material on the 1950 election to go through, not only primary materials, which I have not used in this article, but news clippings and the like. Please let's see if we can get a copyedit done and this situation resolved, but don't expect a response from me for a couple of days, I have a red eye tonight and virtually no time this weekend. I will be monitoring via blackberry though. (unsigned by Wehwalt about 1600 July 31 2009)--Wehwalt (talk) 03:43, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Generic lecture

My apologies for not seeing this thread earlier and hopefully nipping it in the bud then. Since it seems like this is more under control now, here are my thoughts for the future. This is a situation that will happen again - a nominator gets frustrated with reviewer comments with which (s)he disagrees and makes an ill-advised comment; the reviewer is offended and the situation descends into personalities rather than issues. This type of interaction leads to the perception that FAC can be a really difficult place to be. :( I encourage reviewers to first air their concerns with nominators on the nominator's talk page (or vice versa); if that doesn't seem to resolve the situation, then I believe that this page (WT:FAC) is the appropriate forum for any concerns about reviewer/nominator interactions, as there are a lot of level-headed people who have this watchlisted and may be able to help defuse situations earlier. (I also strongly suggest that anyone who engages in the discussions here to keep the tone focused on the situation and not the personalities involved.) Everyone involved in the process to remember that we're all volunteers and this is a pretty thankless job. Let's remain civil and focus on the merits of suggestions without editorializing. Karanacs (talk) 16:03, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Thank you and appreciated, and also all your hard work.--Wehwalt (talk) 16:06, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
There's been no apology, for remarks that are worth a de-sysopping. Tony (talk) 05:14, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Not true, and the falsity obvious by inspection to anyone who reads this page.--Wehwalt (talk) 05:34, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Tony, I don't think there's anything more to be said. I did my best to assuage you, but like anyone who criticizes your editing or disagrees with you on policy, I'm being slammed by you. I see no point in further discussion, though I am willing to if anyone thinks it will be helpful. But at this point, I strongly recommend we go our separate ways.--Wehwalt (talk) 05:40, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

{{rp}} template allowed?

In Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Expedition to the Barrier Peaks/archive1), I've used the {{rp} template to indicate page numbers. It puts the page number after the [1], [2], etc. dealies as a superscript. Is it allowed in FAs? - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 14:46, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Doesn't matter as long as the citation style is consistent within the article. Dabomb87 (talk) 15:01, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I've seen this used in FACs before. I personally hate the style, but as long as you are consistent it's okay. Karanacs (talk) 03:02, 3 August 2009 (UTC)


Please do not add NO TOC to FACs; I believe that bombs the TOC out of archives. Can anyone figure out which FAC is killing the TOC at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Archived nominations/July 2009. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:39, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

It was Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Geraldine Ferraro/archive1. I removed it for you. Theleftorium 18:46, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks! SandyGeorgia (Talk)

Tiny tiny images

Perhaps I'm out of touch, but I'm encountering lots of minitiarised pics. What about this map, in an article that I believe may be resubmitted soon? Is there a problem in up-sizing pics so that you don't have to divert to the image file to determine what on earth they are? I don't see the point. Tony (talk) 14:54, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Are you using Safari? It gives me tinier images than Camino... dave souza, talk 11:32, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
There is some rule in the MOS that says we aren't supposed to size pics unless it is absolutely-positively necessary to see the image (as in the case of maps) - see WP:MOS#Images. Awadewit (talk) 15:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
MOS:IMAGES says in part, "As a rule, images should not be set to another size (that is, one that overrides the default). Where it is appropriate to select a particular size, images should generally be no more than 300 pixels wide, so that they can be comfortably displayed on 800x600 monitors." However, depending on the particular situation, the guidelines allow quite a bit of flex. I often point editors to these guidelines when they set all the images in an article to 300px or some such rather than the default, "thumb". The Yukon Quest map could probably be bumped to 200px or 300px without violating the guidelines. I tried both just now to see how they looked; the small map looks better to me in terms of layout but requires clicking to see the details. That's the usual case with maps but not, say, with mug shots. Finetooth (talk) 16:52, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
  • My concern building maps has always been that unless you blow them up to 500px or more, the fine details aren't going to come out unless you click on them. It's almost impossible to make an effective map when the box is as small as the one defined by the MOS. I've blown up the map in this article to 300px and shifted things around to make it work. I think it looks a lot better. JKBrooks85 (talk) 23:23, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
    • I should point out that there's some serious wasted space in that image (like the massive "Yukon trail" label) that could be cut. While it's more vertical waste than horizontal, smart image layout is one way to make these things more legible. But frankly there's no way to make thumbs work for maps. Unless we can get some pan-and-scan extension, it's going to be like that. (And we really need to get rid of the tiny image sizes and make 200px the default thumb size at least, but that's another issue.) --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 00:54, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
      • There's another concern. Readers whose eyesight is not the best sometimes increase the default width. If an editor increases the default width from 180px to 300px, there's a good case to be made that a map that ordinarily should be 400px should be blown up proportionately. This can be done with the upright=2.22 parameter (2.22 ≈ 400/180). Maybe this sort of thing should be added to MOS:IMAGE? Eubulides (talk)
        • I'd be hesitant about doing something like that unless it was coded into thumbnail and image behavior. --Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs (talk) 01:23, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
          • Yes, it's built into MediaWiki. For example, "[[File:Flag of France.svg|frameless|upright=0.11|link=]]" generates an image Flag of France.svg that is 20px wide Flag of France.svg if you are using the default setting of 180px, but is 30px wide Flag of France.svg if you set your thumbnail width preference to 300px. (Some rounding goes on for performance reasons, which explains why it's not exactly 33px.) Eubulides (talk) 01:52, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
            • Adding this option to MOS:IMAGE is a great idea, making the how-to easier to find and encouraging legible thumbnails. The Yukon trail lettering at 300px is still far too small for me, so that's an example where the use of larger lettering and an increased image using the proportionate method. Perhaps some guidance on maximum image proportion would be useful, as the effect varies greatly from browser to browser.. . dave souza, talk 11:32, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

IMO the rules about image sizes are a mess:

  • They forget that most readers are IPs and cannot set prefs.
  • The appropriate size for an image depends on its content - simple things like most flags can be pretty small, while diagrams / maps / etc. with a lot of content often need to be big.
  • The best size also depends on the use. For example I could use File:Atrax robustus.jpg just as a picture of this spider or of spiders in general, and in this case it could be fairly small. But I could use the same pic to illustrate the chelicerae modified as fangs, which are the signature feature of spiders - and in this case I'd want the image to be shown larger, and might crop and zoom.

Only the editor of an article can judge these issues, and a "one size fits all" guidline is no good for readers. --Philcha (talk) 07:09, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

    • Always willing to learn, I've now tweaked an image using the "upright=" trick to get lettering up to a more legible size. It's very difficult to get lettering big enough on an illustration to work on a thumbnail view, and this helps, in my opinion. . dave souza, talk 11:32, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
  • All I know is that it has become a serious issue. Images are now wasted bits of splash, tiny squares of no use at all unless I double-click on each one, which I'm not willing to do. What a pity we've sacrificed images in WP, since according to the ?most recent Signpost section on an external report of WP, images are one of the weakest parts of the project. I just want to know why we have to be so parsimonious: are people's Internet connections THAT SLOW? Tony (talk) 12:11, 3 August 2009 (UTC) PS In addition, who wants to see tiny-wrap skyscraper-tall captions with one-to-three words in most lines? They look ridiculous. See here, for example. Tony (talk) 12:17, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Switch to Camino! In the Carrick image there are about ten words in each line, for me. Having seid that, Sarari is giving about 6 words per line, both at default text size. Could the default image size be automatically varied so that it looks larger to Safari users? How does it look in other browsers? . . dave souza, talk 12:24, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
One problem that we can consider when we compare to printed works is that while some of our images (typically of people and things) are sufficiently clear at a small size that they can be placed in line with text and can be viewed while the user is reading the text without having to break up flow to any great extend, maps and other highly detailed images don't work as well like that - they are meant to augment the text and be read and used both as a standalone as well as together with the text. This is often done through the placement of the image in a half page or full page by itself.
Now, there is no technical reason we can't consider the same for a detailed image that should be part of an article when it is printed out. Yes, we could tell people to go to the image page and print the full size version from there, but considering the KISS case of, say, a middle-school student trying to get information, printing the page should print everything they can see with it. So when an image is detailed and clearly needs more than 300px to be shown, we should allow this, possibly creating an image that fills the width of the current page.
The only problem against this is for non-free images (like the Yukon one above appears to be) which should be minimum size to convey the right information - in the past, I've seen this that enough of the image is retained that while text may be garbled, its clear what the lines and shapes on the map is showing with the actual text restated on the image page. This I don't think most consider acceptable for the purposes of small images sizes, but it is a necessary limitation. Fortunately, for most modern day maps we can consider the recreation of such maps in SVG and making them free (acknowledging the source work as necessary), which then allows us to change font sizes to be better read at larger or small images, allow the images to be large as necessary, and so forth. When this case is met, we then should be considering the possibility of large images for detailed maps and the like. I don't think we can extend this to non-free images, however. --MASEM (t) 12:44, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Isn't one of the considerations readers with 800 x 600 monitors per Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Images recommending pix no larger than 300px, as well as considerations in WP:ACCESS: "When possible, do not force oversizing of images that override the default user preferences. Some users need to configure their systems to display large text; forced large thumbnails can leave little width for text, making reading difficult"? Are these outdated concerns? —Mattisse (Talk) 12:59, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Maybe that's the other way to go. The 300px is meant to be used for images that are clearly in-line with text (that don't need to be stopped and understood and disrupt the flow of reading). However, to the best of my knowledge, we've never discussed a non-inline image in any MOS, one that would purposely be on its own horizontal space without text wrapping. Such cases should be used for images that need to be larger than 300px on display; at that point, however, our standard [[File:imagename.jpg]] means of insertion no long apply. We could probably make a template for such "full width images" (they don't need to be the full width of the page, just clearly that they need to be shown at a larger size) to make this work. --MASEM (t) 13:04, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

<ri> {{Wide image}} enables "full width images", it's just that the MOS seems to give priority to the default 180px thumbnails: rephrasing the information in the MOS could help: The paragraph starts with "Most pictures should be between 100 and 400 pixels wide. Generally, use the thumbnail option", and in the same paragraph gives other options "Where it is appropriate to select a particular size". Part of that could be split out as a new paragraph: Suggest

  • Where images have a lot of detail, if the detail is important to the article, for example detailed maps, diagrams, or charts, larger images can be used for clarity. The {{Wide image}} template can be used to fit an image into the width of the browser window, or per. Wikipedia:Picture tutorial, |upright= can be used with factors greater than 1 to provide a larger image. Factors over ??? should be avoided (if they affect 800x600 screen sizes).

We don't seem to have a template for using the |upright= trick! This proposal could be reflected in FA criteria, which should advise on using large images for clarity..dave souza, talk 14:39, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Wikivoices episode on reviewing FACs

So, we at Wikivoices, thought it would be a good idea to have a podcast devoted to reviewing FACs. We thought a good way to do this would be to do a sample review during an episode. The group will read the article beforehand and come with prepared comments (well, some of us will be more prepared than others!). We will then explain our reviewing processes and the issues they raised. We were wondering if someone would like to be a guinea pig for this experiment and offer up their FAC for scrutiny. We would also like them to come on the podcast. Anyone who is interested in being a reviewer or reviewee can sign up at Wikipedia talk:Wikivoices#FAC review. Please list the article you currently have at FAC or that you are about to list at FAC. Thanks! Awadewit (talk) 03:30, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Clearly, thumbnails will no longer be mandated by MoS

In reference to the section above about this issue, the discussion at MoS talk appears almost certain to remove the prescription for putting thumbnails in articles. In addition, there is already wriggle room not to in the bullets.

The final wording has not yet been agreed on, but I think this is a serious enough fault with the guide line that nominators should loose the idea that thumbnails are mandatory. Tony (talk) 02:36, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Regardless of any changes, this is true: the MOS always said "generally we use thumbs" which means it can't be mandated. --MASEM (t) 03:23, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I think Tony was referring to the fact that some editors treated that guideline as if it was a mandate. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:26, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
That's what I'm saying and gathered from the discussion - there are editors vigilant about "thumb" when there's no strong requirement (only a strong preference for it). --MASEM (t) 03:32, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. In particular any reformulation ought to elimimate the word "should", as some zealots interpret that as "must". --Philcha (talk) 10:36, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Average Edits per FA

Does anyone have a ballpark figure on how many edits it takes on average to get an article to FA-status? Obviously every article is different, but an average would be interesting. If no one has any figures, any ideas on how to compute such an average without doing anything too time consuming? Cool3 (talk) 03:00, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

On average, it takes me about two-to-three hundred. Sceptre (talk) 03:28, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I fidget alot and make minor edits, so mine will likely be inflated, but I think for smaller articles I have averaged 150-200 edits, and for real biggies 500 or more. Casliber (talk · contribs) 03:38, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Yeah those sound about right. Gary King (talk) 04:56, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm another compulsive fiddler, according to this, two of mine selected at random were about 550 edits each in total, but with around 300 in the FAC build up period Jimfbleak - talk to me? 06:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

How to ref?

I'm thinking about nominating Ravenloft (module), and I have "Notes" and a "References" sections going on. If I end up with only one book in the "References" section, with pages 8 and 63 of the book in the "Notes" section, should I merge the two sections? Thanks. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 07:57, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

I'd merge them, but might wait until I see if early comments at FAC cause new refs to be added. --Philcha (talk) 08:05, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
There are several other books used as sources in the article. If you don't like the look of having a single book in the References section, you could move the full citations for these various books into it. If, on the other hand, you'd prefer to avoid going through these hoops for sources used only once, it would be fine to move the full information for the one book to its first use. It all comes down to personal preference. Giants2008 (17–14) 21:37, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text helps the visually impaired

(The next few sections follow up to #Alt text in images, which was getting unwieldy.) Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Re "is there any evidence that it [alt text] actually helps visually impaired people?" above:

Surely it is obvious that describing an article's images to a visually impaired person makes it easier for them to understand an article, for the same reason that including a transcript of the article's voice recordings makes it easier for the hearing impaired. However, to help allay any concerns that alt text is well-intentioned but misguided, I did a Google Scholar search, and there is indeed solid support among reliable sources for the obvious proposition that alt text helps visually impaired readers, or (the equivalent) that lack of alt text makes things more difficult for them. Here are three examples:

  • A 2007 study found that absent or low-quality alt text was one of the top five causes of frustration for blind users of the web. See Lazar J, Allen A, Kleinman J, Malarkey C (2007). "What frustrates screen reader users on the web: a study of 100 blind users". International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction. 22 (3): 247–69. doi:10.1080/10447310709336964. 
  • A 2008 paper on blind access to Wikipedia listed lack of alt text as the first obstacle. See Buzzi M, Leporini B (2008). "Is Wikipedia usable for the blind?". Proc 2008 W4A. Beijing. pp. 15–22. doi:10.1145/1368044.1368049. 
  • The lack of alt text was also emphasized in a followup paper published last month, which focused on making it easier for blind readers to edit Wikipedia. See Buzzi M, Leporini B (2009). "Editing Wikipedia content by screen reader: easier interaction with the Accessible Rich Internet Applications suite". Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 4 (4): 264–75. PMID 19565387. doi:10.1080/17483100902903457. 

I'm sure that I could find and cite other sources supporting the same point.

Closer to home, Graham87's comments supported the use of alt text. Graham87 uses a screen reader and his comments therefore weighed heavily in the original thread above. Search for his name in the lead subsection of Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates #Alt text in images.

In short, there's no real question that good alt text helps visually impaired readers. The only question is whether editors should bother to aid the visually impaired. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Graham87 was saying that alt text is useful in describing a logo, for example. But in many of the examples we've seen of alt text, if not most, the descriptions are often quite unhelpful. The example I gave above was describing Immanuel Kant as a man in a wig looking to his right, or Clare College Cambridge as a three-storey building. It's hard to see how that would help someone, and yet this is what you're arguing should be essential for FA. The issue is that it's yet another stylistic burden on FA writers, when people are arguably already overloaded, and in an article with a lot of images that are tricky to describe well, it adds quite a bit of extra work. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:02, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I disagree that alt text should be omitted for the Kant image in the article where this came up. Please see #Alt text for portraits below for more on this. I also disagree that alt text is a substantial burden on writing FAs. In my experience (I haven't measured precisely) it's like 0.1% of the burden. Maybe less. That image is not hard to describe, and one can write alt text for it in a couple of minutes. The Clare College image was also easy to write alt text for. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Discussion should continue at the relevant sub-sections of Wikipedia_talk:Featured_article_candidates#Alt_text_in_images, otherwise we'll never get an accurate idea of what the consensus is - there'll be "votes" double counted or not counted.
As SlimVirgin says, for images that identify people / places / various other subject alt text that literally describes the subject is useless.
Maps and technical diagrams are even worse - in the case of diagrams alt text that adequately describes the subject may be as long as a section of main text. Having bored everyone with the same example a few times, I offer another one File:4-Stroke-Engine.gif - can anyone adequately describe the 4-stroke cycle in a reasonable lentgh for alt text? --Philcha (talk) 19:30, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Good point, but it seems useful to me to thrash out options here. Guess these subsections could always be moved up. That's a great example, and for its use in Four-stroke engine the appropriate alt text could presumably be alt="sectional view of an engine, with the piston rising up and down as its connecting rod rotates the crankshaft". The rest of the description of the cycle is given in the text which follows the image. Agreed? . dave souza, talk 19:42, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that's good alt text for this example image use. Let me underscore the point: Alt text is not that hard to write. Much of the opposition to alt text on this talk page seems to come from an exaggerated fear of how much work is involved. It really isn't that hard, typically. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text for diagrams

Re "Alt text for diagrams would often be a nightmare, for example File:Arthropod head problem 01.png" above:

That complicated diagram is an extreme case, but consider the alternative: a visually impaired reader of the article will be missing information that was considered to be so important that a complex diagram was drawn up to present it. I'm no expert in arthropods, so it took me about 15 minutes to research the topic and write alt text for that diagram, which I installed. Problem solved, and it wasn't that much work.

I expect that an editor who knows the topic well could be able to do it in somewhat less time, and could come up with something more succinct. I don't know what's important, so I converted everything to alt text, making it more verbose than it probably needs to be. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Are you certain that alt text would really be useful to a visually impaired reader? I'm certainly not. Graham mae the point above that he found a short description helpful, not an essay attempting to duplicate the contents of the article. --Malleus Fatuorum 18:26, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
As I said, I would expect an editor who knows the material to be able to come up with briefer version. But yes, the alt text I wrote, if technical errors in it are corrected, should be better than nothing, for a visually impaired reader. How could it be otherwise? It explains an important image that the reader cannot see. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
From my reading of WP:ALT, there seem to be two ways round this. One is to provide alt text providing the missing information that is shown only in the diagram. Not easy to do concisely, but necessary for readers dependent on the text. The other option is to treat the diagram as a visual aid to text in the main body of the article explaining the essentials of the information, in which case that body text would not be duplicated in the alt text. In that option it would then be possible to have no alt text and treat the diagram as purely decorative, or a simple description referring to the body text. Presumably it would be appropriate to add |link= to remove the link to the image, but apparently that can't be used where imatge attribution is required. Not sure if that can be used when there's a caption. . . dave souza, talk 19:16, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
The first option is fine, of course. The second is also fine if the article text adequately describes the image. On my list of things to do is to fix the image attribution problem, for CC-BY-SA images anyway, so that one can use "|link=| with them; in the meantime we can muddle through acceptably with alt text that says the equivalent of "see article body". Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm afraid Eubulides' alt text for File:Arthropod head problem 01.png has inaccuracies, starting with the first sentence. I'm afraid it's also not much help, since you need to be able to read the segments both lengthways for one creature and crosswise to compare the sub-phyla. If the W3C had had the sense to allow markup in alt text and screen readers can read tables both ways, an HTML table might have helpful - but W3C missed that trick. If straight sequential text were useful such situations, we'd seldom bother with diagrams. --Philcha (talk)
Not being an arthropod expert I'm not surprised there are errors in my alt text, but they can be easily corrected and are not an argument against alt text per se. I also agree that my alt text is not as good as the image (if it were, we wouldn't need the image at all!) but this doesn't affect the point that the alt text is better than nothing for the visually impaired reader. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm afraid that to me that just again reveals your blind spot. Are you seriously suggesting that an image wouldn't be helpful if what it showed could be described textually? Really? Seems to me that in your unseemly haste to offer help to the visually impaired you are also trying to reduce the value of the work to those who (in your eyes unfairly) are not visually impaired. I find that attitude to be grossly offensive. --Malleus Fatuorum 15:20, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
If the idea behind an image is better rendered as text, then yes, it should be rendered as text. I don't see how that can be controversial. Obviously if image and text renditions are roughly equal in usefulness, then editorial judgment comes into play. In this case, though, my comment said that the alt text was worse than the image. I don't see how that can reasonably be interpreted as criticizing the image, nor is there anything whatsoever in my comment that supports your claim about my opinions about fairness. Eubulides (talk) 21:43, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
dave souza's "two ways round this" are missing at least one, and the use of File:Arthropod head problem 01.png at Arthropod#Segmentation illustrates an additional intermediate possibility - that article does not describe in detail the Arthropod head problem, it aims only a quick illustration of the Arthropod head problem's complexity, to reinforce the point made by "Working out the evolutionary stages by which all these different combinations could have appeared is so difficult that ...". On the other hand the same image used at Arthropod head problem would be dave souza's 2nd option, "to treat the diagram as a visual aid to text in the main body of the article explaining the essentials of the information". --Philcha (talk) 19:48, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Guess that at at Arthropod#Segmentation the appropriate alt text would be "the various sequences of head segments in x, y and z present a complex matrix with no evident evolutionary sequence". In every case the alt text will relate to the use in the article. . . dave souza, talk 20:11, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, this briefer alt text would be better in that context. This illustrates two points. First, the person who's writing the article is often much better at writing the alt text and can do a better job at writing brief alt text. Second, alt text often depends on the context, for the same reason that captions depend on the context. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text for portraits

Re "Who is helped, who is educated, by being told that, in Immanuel Kant, there is an image of a man in a wig looking downwards and to his right?" above:

In the context of the Bernard Williams #Critique of Kantianism article, who is helped by seeing the image of Kant at all? If readers are typically not helped by seeing the image, then it should be removed, alt text and all. Conversely, if in the context of the article the image's visual appearance aids understanding of the personality or philosophy of Kant (and I think it clearly does), then the alt text should say so. No doubt the current alt text could be improved, but that's no argument for removing alt text entirely. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Right, and this is the issue that opens a can of worms. If we say an image is purely decorative and doesn't need alt text, you will respond, "Then remove it." And right there is another obstacle course for FA writers to weave their way through. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:07, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
There is no obstacle course here. My argument did not say or imply that purely decorative images should be removed. (I regularly help to improve the accessibility of such images.) My argument was purely about whether that particular image is useful in that particular article. I argued that it is useful, and I think you agree that it is useful. Let's not hypothesize cans of worms where the cans do not exist. Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Agreeing with SlimVirgin. Your position on alt text is beginning to verge on the absurd Eubulides. --Malleus Fatuorum 18:28, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
It's not absurd. It's common consensus. What is absurd is how my position has been mischaracterized here, mostly I expect due to lack of understanding of standard technical phrases like "purely decorative". Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
In which case, maybe we should accept more use of decorative images? Here it's arguable that a brief alt text can convey something of use to the the reader, as suggested at the link given below. The issue isn't that it's a hurdle for FA writers, but an extra task for all editors. A bit of reasonable leeway for FA writers while we all get used to the idea is a good thing, but it's certainly a worthwhile improvement extending the usefulness of the project. . . dave souza, talk 19:29, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
One could fairly easily, I think, make a convincing case that all images are decorative, to which my reply would be "So what?" The position apparently being advanced by Eubulides seems to me very much like banning colour, because it's not essential and not everyone can see it. --Malleus Fatuorum 20:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • The previous comment is based on a misunderstanding of the technical term "purely decorative", which I am using in the sense of W3C and WP:ALT to mean (roughly) "the picture doesn't add significant info to the article, and nothing happens when you click on it". In this sense, many of the images in Wikipedia are purely decorative, but many are not.
  • I would certainly accept more use of decorative images in Wikipedia. It shouldn't be overdone, of course, but I haven't yet run into an article where it has been overdone, and more use would be nice.
Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Colour should be banned, in the sense that one should not convey information by colour alone, in order to be accessible to the ~10% or so of the population that are colour blind. You are quite right; and as was your edit summary. --Xover (talk) 20:53, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm probably going to sound quite callous to some, but this needs saying anyway. Sure we should do everything that can reasonably be done to provide a prosthetic environment for those with some visual impairment, and so no article should depend on colour or images, alt text or no alt text—by which definition all images are "decorative" and ought to be removed according to Eubulides. But the key word here is "reasonable". What about deaf readers who are unable to hear fragments of music? Why are they being ignored for instance? --Malleus Fatuorum 21:05, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Yes, the key is "reasonable". It is reasonable to say that our best work supports access by the visually impaired? Obviously the answer ought to be yes, if it's not too much work. The main issue here that I can see is whether it's too much work. So far, the evidence has been presented in that arena has indicated that it's not too much work. For example, one specific examples alleged to be a "nightmare" turned out, when examined, to have alt text that could be written in a few minutes.
  • I would also like to support deaf and hearing-impaired users better, and would welcome further discussion about that (for example, transcripts for voice recordings). However, that's a different topic. It's also a less-pressing topic, as sound is far less commonly used in Wikipedia compared to images. I assume that the argument that color should be banned is meant to be a joke; nobody is arguing for that, just as nobody is arguing for images to be removed simply because they are purely decorative.
Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
No, I am quite earnest in suggesting using color alone to convey information should not be allowed. It is a fairly important principle of accessibility work, and a quite real problem for the ~8% of the male population of the US that are color blind. It is also not a significant burden: most tables use color only for emphasis (it adds to information already present), and most infographics already are or can easily be adapted to follow this principle (e.g. instead of two bars in a chart being only different colors, make them also have different fill patterns). This would improve accessibility for more users (~5% vs. ~2.5%) with less effort than alternative text; but, of course, alt text solves a much more critical problem (and visuallly impaired users do find alt text a critical issue!). I very much agree that we in all ways possible should encourage the use of proper alt text, and that in my experience this is not a significant burden. The debate over alt text has been repeated on the web since the W3C first started working on accessibility guidelines, and it always goes the same: some will argue that it's such a burden (cost), and that it's impossible to get perfect so why even try (defeatist), and besides there aren't really that many blind users so it's hardly worth the bother (profit). Not to mention the always popular “But nobody else is using alt text, why do I have to!” (do we have wikimarkup for a whiny tone of voice?). This is why the equivalent of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have been made a requirement in 29 U.S.C. Section 508 (along with things like wheelchair access etc.): some will always argue against doing anything at all, rather than accept the (usually minimal) added burden of striving for the best feasible level of accessibility. Don't set an unattainable standard to be sure, and do provide the necessary tools, but do provide every incentive (including force-measures such as policy requirements) for editors to make articles accessible to the widest range of people possible. In any case, I get the feeling the discussion has an odd emphasis on the “This is too hard, we can't do it” angle, rather than “This is how and to what degree we are practically able to do it” (on which latter point reasonable editors may disagree). The question really shouldn't be whether to require accessibility in the FA criteria, it should be which specific measures should be required, to what degree, and what tools do editors need (e.g. shared alt text on image page) in order to comply. The reference to Malleus' edit summary (reductio ad absurdum) was to underline the point that all claimed arguments that “by that argument, all images should be removed” or your own “all color should be removed” are strawmen that badly miss the point; as either argument or refutation they represent rhetoric rather than reasoned argument, and we can do better than that. --Xover (talk) 22:32, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, I did not read your earlier comment carefully enough and just now struck my out-of-touch response. I wholeheartedly agree with you that color alone should not be used to convey significant information. Eubulides (talk) 23:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

More generally, the question of good alt text for portraits came up above, with the suggestion using "Photo of Joe Schmoe" as the alt text for a photograph of Joe Schmoe. While that would be adequate for images of people like Einstein where most readers can be expected to know the appearance, and it may also be adequate for lower-quality work, I would think that any high-quality article on a person should devote some space to what that person looked like, when this is known. With an image, it's easy: just show the image. If the image isn't visible, though, alt text can be quite useful in giving a brief impression of what the person looked and dressed like. There is some guidance for this in WP:ALT #What to specify, which uses a portrait as its example and contains a paragraph about portraits. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Eubulides, we seem to be discussing 2 types of user who might hypothetically benefit from alt text:
  • Visually disadvantaged users. For them the subject's name and possibly age and circumstances are best, e.g. "Nelson dying on the deck of Victory". The current official WP approach would be something like "A small, slight man with only one arm and with a patch over one eye, wearing an early 19th century senior naval officer's uniform, lies on the deck of an early 19th century battleship, with blood seeping from a wound in his chest". It's hard enough to guess what the significance of this is to the article for a visually disadvantaged user who saw pictures of Nelson's death before the onset of their visual difficulties, and totally impossible for those who have not seen such a picture in the past.
  • Users who have forbidden their browsers to show images. Since they mostly have eyesight within "normal" parameters, they do not have years' of experience of dealing with only verbal descriptions both online and offline, and probably do not have the highly-trained short term memory that come with such long practice. If they've seen pics of Nelson dying before, "Nelson dying" is useful to these users. If they haven't, a detailed physical description will probably provoke "so what?"--Philcha (talk)
  • The previous comment seems to be confusing caption (which is where "Nelson dying on the deck of Victory" would normally be) and alt text (which would describe the visual appearance). The appropriate alt text for such an image would depend on which image and what the context is. Perhaps you could give a specific article and image so that we can better understand the problem that you see for visually disadvantaged users? (As Nelson didn't die on the deck of the Victory, perhaps this particular hypothetical example is not the best choice....) Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I think you make a good point Philcha. The point that doesn't seem to be getting enough attention is what do the audience for these alt texts want? I got the very strong impression from the comments made by Graham that he wanted a short description to give him an idea of what was in the picture, in which case "middle aged man in wig" might be perfectly OK for Kant's picture. The problem is that nobody seems to be clear about what makes good alt text from the consumer's pov, which is why I remain convinced that this half-baked addition to FA criteria was rushed and botched. These repeated claims that alt text is easy to write just miss the point. Sure, stringing words together is easy enough, but to what benefit if they're the wrong words? --Malleus Fatuorum 20:50, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
The current rule says alt text should be "brief", which addresses the point about brevity made above. The rest of the comment seems to be ignoring the content of WP:ALT, which is quite clear (and if it's not clear, specific suggestions for clarifying it are welcome). Eubulides (talk) 21:40, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
map in black and white filled with (apparent) place names and different kinds of lines (normal, consisting of small crosses, of small points, and of orange-colored points that form two straight lines)
Fragment of Delafosse's (1904) linguistic map highlighting Nafaanra ("Nafana") in the borderland of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. Bonduku is found on the left.
Perhaps some more thought is needed before alt text is unleashed. The points by Philcha are very interesting. We cannot write alt text helpfully if the audience of readers is not clear, i.e. those who have no sight versus sighted persons with images turned off at the extremes.
Here is an example of an image I just plucked from an article where the editor had been asked to add alt text.
The alt text: map in black and white filled with (apparent) place names and different kinds of lines (normal, consisting of small crosses, of small points, and of orange-colored points that form two straight lines
I would think this alt text would be meaningless to someone who cannot see the map. Even seeing the map, it is not helpful. Alt text is now being added to many articles. Are we creating chaos for text readers? Do they have the option to "turn off" the reading of alt text, if all of this becomes too much? Graham said he liked concise, helpful alt explanations.
I think editors are implementing the new alt text requirement as best as they can. They are trying to follow the directions. But although the directions may seem clear and simple enough to those who can do alt text for an image in a few minutes, it is not so clear and easy for others.
Is this to be implemented helter-skelter? —Mattisse (Talk) 21:03, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree that that particular alt text is not that good, and have replaced it with the following:
'Map of two dozen locations in half a dozen regions. The central region's name, "NAFANA", is magnified in an inset. Other region names include "ABRON" and "NTAKIMA"; location names include "Bondoukou", the largest location in the NAFANA region.'
No attempt is being made to implement alt text "helter skelter"; instead, we're trying to encourage it one article at a time, as they come up for FAC and FAR. That is a methodical and gradual approach, and is the exact opposite of helter skelter. One can expect alt text to be done poorly at first, before people gain experience with it. But it is unreasonable to say that alt text should not be required merely because mistakes are sometimes made in writing it. Eubulides (talk) 23:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
One of the problems with the guideline is that it thinks the image caption, e.g. "Nelson dying on HMS Victory", is part of the package of info available to the blind user as part of the pic. But it's just some text in a container div (try view source). A blind user who understand HTML structure and the specific way they're used in WP images might be abble to use the caption as well as the alt text - but not the average blind person.
But then the W3C's thinking on alt text was either fuzzy or tokenism - a limited amount of straight text is pretty useless for any complex subject. So why expect WP to think it out better? --Philcha (talk) 21:38, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't follow the previous two paragraphs; they seem to be either misunderstanding the W3C recomendations, or misunderstanding how screen readers work, or both. (Certainly the W3C is not just a bunch of fuzzy tokenist hackers.) Perhaps you could explain the point by citing a specific example of a particular image in a real article, and saying why alt text would not be useful for that image? Eubulides (talk) 23:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I believe screen readers read the captions as well as the alt text. That is why it is important not to repeat what is in the caption. Graham said his did. —Mattisse (Talk) 21:55, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
This is correct. Eubulides (talk) 23:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
What's fairly clear to me is that none of us really knows what needs to be done or how to do it. I've never used screen-reading software, for instance, and listened to the description of an image I've never seen. All of the alt text I've written has been (obviously) for images that I've seen. How the Hell do I, or anyone else not visually impaired, know what such a reader would find useful? What I do know though is that much of the alt text I've seen is just useless padding added to get through FAC, and that needs to change. --Malleus Fatuorum 23:18, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
  • This is incorrect. I have used a screen reader, and Graham87 exclusively uses a screen reader. Also, I can very roughly approximate the feeling of a screen reader by configuring my browser to not download images; perhaps you could try that? It's easy.
  • I agree that some of the alt text described above has not been good, and have fixed all specific examples mentioned. There will always be some problems with alt text, just as there are problems with all other article aspects, but trotting out the worst examples of alt text that one can find is not a good argument against the idea of alt text in general.
  • It's not true that a large part of the alt text added for FAC is "useless padding"; it may be useless to a sighted reader, but it is not useless to the visually impaired.
Eubulides (talk) 23:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
As has happened so often in this discussion Eubulides you completely miss the point. I am not blind, but yes, I do switch off images to check alt text, and most of the time I find it to be a complete waste of space. I have to say that I am coming round to SlimVirgin's view, and that if alt text remains a requirement for FA then I will not be submitting any more articles at FAC. My view is that this proposal was ill-considered and rushed through without proper thought. Now you can argue amongst yourselves, because I'm done here. --Malleus Fatuorum 23:58, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
How do we know what is useful for someone like Graham? For example, he changed the alt text to remove a fraction, he said it garbled the speech.[4] He has also made it clear that he prefers the text to be brief and concise, to give him a "rough idea". On the description of a seal, he said he appreciated the information it is round. I think we should go slow in implementing it, until we understand what is needed. I rather agree with Malleus that most of the alt text appears useless to ridiculous. And much of it is not brief nor concise. But I am not as polite as Graham is. Regards, —Mattisse (Talk) 00:08, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Graham87 has said multiple times that he finds alt text useful and has made suggestions for improving it. We have been tracking this closely. His advice to be brief and/or concise appears multiple times in WP:ALT and is part of WP:FACR. His advice to remove the fraction now appears in WP:ALT #What not to specify as "Alt text should avoid tricky typographical constructions...". Further suggestions from Graham87 and other visually impaired users are welcome. The opinion that most of the alt text is "useless to ridiculous" is contradicted by Graham87's remarks, and having just re-reviewed the recently featured article The Bartered Bride (alt text), it's simply not true that most of the alt text there is "useless to ridiculous". Eubulides (talk) 06:59, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
No he has not. He has said that he finds brief and concise alt text helpful, not the useless essays that so often pass for alt text. --Malleus Fatuorum 15:14, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
The alt text entries for The Bartered Bride are not "useless essays". Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
He also said, somewhere on this page, that although he was in favor of alt text, it was not important enough to him to "bicker" over. Also, I think switching off images, and seeing the alt text only is not the same experience as one who has never seen images. Further, some editors appear overly invested in describing the details of their images, and some of it may verge on OR, like the "well-trimmed" mustache of the police chief; to me it look bushy. —Mattisse (Talk) 15:30, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I would be happy to stop bickering over this issue and write more alt text and help others write alt text.
  • I agree that switching off images is not the same as using a screen reader; it's only a very rough approximation, as I've said. A better approximation is to install and use a screen reader, with your eyes closed; this isn't that hard to do, though I am not saying every Wikipedia editor should do it!
  • If editors generate too-long alt text, we can easily ask them to trim it; I've done that and in practice this works well.
  • I don't care whether the policeman's mustache should be described as "well-trimmed" or as "bushy" (it's both). Please feel free to change it to "bushy" if you like. Issues like these are clearly, clearly, not worth bickering over.
Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Your second point exposes a very dangerous assumption: for a fully sighted user to turn off images, use a screen-reader with his eyes closed, or the perennial favourite, to put on a blindfold and attempt to navigate around the streets; these are all seductively tempting, but absolute hogwash! Don't get me wrong, they will help you appreciate what types of difficulties may ensue, but they're absolutely useless in giving you a true understanding of how a visually impaired user, say, navigates the web. Especially for people who have been blind since birth or very early age, the difference isn't in the mere lack of sensor input from the optical sensor array; it's in how they process and refer to information, and the very minute practical details of how available technology actually operates. For them as well as those with a visual impairment that isn't total, or those who've lost their vision later in life, you will never approximate just how much they've adapted to processing information without relying on optical input. In this I absolutely agree with Matisse: writing good alt text is hard! The only way to develop a real feel for this is by talking to visually impaired users and so begin to understand what their needs actually are. For instance—and this is based on previous experience with attempting to make a web service accessible to the visually impaired—I'm willing to bet that the chaotic and high-volume nature of this discussion thread, the various technology artifacts (such as parenthesis, dashes, timestamps, random abbreviations, etcetera) are a much bigger problem to Graham than lack of alternative text is in most actual articles. In email conversations, for instance, it turns out (or so I'm told) that the common convention of interspersing your reply with the quoted text of the original actually depends on the recipient's ability to visually locate the reply text relative to the quoted text. Whereas if you write your reply as an unbroken narrative above or below the quoted text it is much easier to read for those relying on text to speech or braille technology. All of this is not to proclaim myself to have "the answer", but rather to point out that making assumptions is extremely dangerous here, and that the way to figure out what visually impaired users need is to talk to visually impaired users. --Xover (talk) 06:59, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Please see #Assumptions about visual impairment below. Eubulides (talk) 08:41, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I also think that one of the examples of useful alt text that Graham specifically mentioned—the Earl of Carrick's seal—was very telling. He obviously would not have known it was round, and that's clearly helpful, but it ought also to make us consider what concept's a blind person can relate to and find meaningful. Clearly shape is one, because that can be felt, but equalyy clearly colour isn't. So for instance what would be the purpose of describing an image as "an expanse of green grass under a cloudless blue sky" to someone who has seen neither. The oft-quoted advice to think of trying to explain the image to someone over the telephone misses the point by a very wide mark, as it presupposes that the person to whom you are describing the image can see just as well as you can, and that concepts such as "grey", "translucent", "ripple", or even "reflection" have any real meaning to a blind person, Or at least that they convey the same meaning to a blind person that they do to us. Those who are claiming that writing alt text is "quick and easy" are talking out of their arses. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:45, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, when I said that, I was disheartened by how long and convoluted the discussion was, considering that we're only talking about one or two-sentence image descriptions. Probably because I'm borderline autistic, I dislike conflict and usually try to avoid it. I'm a habitual [[lurker] and only participate when I have something *really* important to say. I kinda thought, "if it's causing so much angst for certain people, then maybe it'd be better to drop it as an absolute requirement". I didn't realise there were so many shades of grey to the issue. I strongly support the use of alt text, as long as it's concise and conveys important information for people who can't see the images. Graham87 16:39, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Wonderful to hear from you! Concise I completely understand. But what is important to you? For example, there is a portrait of some men in Pavel Bure, and the alt text is "Two middle-aged men sit on a couch at left, and two men in their thirties sit on another at right. At center is a carved oval wooden table." Is it important that at center is a carved oval wooden table? —Mattisse (Talk) 16:51, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it helps me form a better mental picture of the room. The type of table would set the scene ... I'd have a different mental picture if it was, say, a plastic outdoor table that's been placed in the room for some reason. I can't quite explain it properly. Any more detail about the table would be overkill IMO. A sighted person should probably check this edit. Graham87 17:10, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Your edit was correct, but how did you know? Also, that is good information about the table, and a good contrast between types of tables and how that changes the setting. —Mattisse (Talk) 18:12, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Because of the alt text mentioning two men in their thirties sitting opposite two men in their fifties. I knew that Putin would've probably been in his fifties, and the simplest explanation for the incongruence in my mental picture was that Putin was listed as being on the wrong side. Graham87 00:44, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Graham is way more "observant" than those of us who can see. —Mattisse (Talk) 01:00, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree about the difficulty, & the usefulness of Graham's comments, but blindness confirms my impression that relatively few people classified as blind have been completely so from birth, & a large number had normal sight until old age, disease or an accident. In many cases, these are just the people who would benefit from well-written alt text. Johnbod (talk) 16:56, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
File:Nafaanra literacy class.jpg
A Nafaanra literacy class in the 1970's.
The file File:Nafaanra literacy class.jpg has an uncertain copyright status and may be deleted. You can comment on its removal.
A young child points. Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction.
A three-year-old with autism points to fish in an aquarium, as part of an experiment on the effect of intensive shared-attention training on language development.
  • I would think we would aim for alt text that would be helpful to all levels you mention, and certainly not be an interference, as alt text that is not concise. I notice that sometimes the skin color (e.g. black) is mentioned in the alt text, but usually ethnicity or race is not.
Image one - Alt text is two black men with in white clothes with faces turned to a large blackboard with written text
Image two - Alt text is A young child points. Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction.
Is there a policy about racial/ethnic descriptions in alt text?
Also, should the alt text start with a capital letter and end with a period?
And, as Malleus points out, how relevant is colour? Should we name colours as in a flag, but leave out "green" grass and "blue" sky colours? Or "brown" grass should be called "dry" grass or "dead" grass? Should we describe weather rather than colour of the sky?
Mustache "bushy" or "trim"? And should we describe the furniture in the room in a portrait? How to describe age? Elderly? Old? Aged? Young? (How young is young?) Distinguished? How do we describe Augusta, Lady Gregory, as in the portrait she appears "distinguished" or "handsome" but appears to be roughly the same age as the image captioned "Lady Gregory in later life". Just some questions I am curious about.

Mattisse (Talk) 17:44, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

I think descriptions should be used rather than colours, but that's not always possible with, for example, blonde hair, which can be important. Whether the race of a person should be mentioned would depend on the context; it's propbably worth mentioning it in articles about race riots or similar. I suppose "dark clouds" would be another example; I know, from people explaining it to me, that they mean that it's about to rain heavily. How else would you describe them without introducing original research? Graham87 02:13, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Graham87. The general rule of thumb is to describe the gist of the image's visual appearance, roughly in the order that you noticed it. Focus on the visual aspects of the image that are relevant to the article. If color or race is important, put it in; otherwise, don't. Another way of saying this is that alt text depends on context, the same way that what one immediately notices about an image depends on context. As for the more-detailed questions:
  • I've been suggesting to people to punctuate alt text the same way they'd punctuate a caption.
  • It's better to say "brown grass" than "dead grass"; the former is visual appearance (which is what alt text is all about), the latter interpretation.
  • Whether to describe a person in a portrait as "distingushed", "older", etc. is a judgment call. One cannot reasonably expect a policy or guideline to spell out to editors exactly when to use which adjective in alt text, just as one cannot reasonably expect it for ordinary article text. The existence of judgment calls in writing alt text is no more an argument against alt text than it is against ordinary article text.
Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Re the "brown grass" you suggest, Graham87 says descriptions should be used rather than colours. People used to speak of the "golden hills of California" until it was learned that dead grass (dry grass) is actually a fire hazard and the "golden grass" description faded out. —Mattisse (Talk) 13:09, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  • In other web sites I'd agree with you that "dead grass" would be fine, but Wikipedia has another core principle, verifiability, which says that if the alt text makes a challengeable claim about the picture, it needs to be supported. Alt text cannot contain <ref>s or other links, so realistically it can't contain citations. Claims about what the picture looks like don't need a citation, as the picture serves as its own documentation of what it looks like, but claims about meaning (e.g., this grass is dead, and not merely dormant) require a citation and therefore can't occur in alt text. For this particular case the point is relatively minor, but the general point is important and we might as well be consistent about it. (Sorry, I don't follow that "golden hills" and "fire hazard" comment; I don't see how it applies here.) Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)


← My first experience of alt text was on a recent FAR, where I was asked to add it to the image on the right, which you would think would be easy to describe. My first attempt was:


1. King's College Chapel and the Gibbs building photographed from The Backs, looking east across the River Cam. Four people are punting on the river, the punter standing at the back of the boat on the deck or till, which is the style in Cambridge.

Too specific, too many names, so I tried again:

2. King's College Chapel and the Gibbs building photographed from the River Cam. Four people are punting on the river, the punter standing at the back of the boat on the deck or till.

Still not right. Third attempt:

3. "Several old buildings next to a river, including a chapel that dates to the 15th century. Four people are punting on the river, the punter standing at the back of the boat holding a long pole, while the others are seated."

This time Eubilides did it for me:

4. Chapel in late Gothic style with a large window between two spires about eight stories tall, behind water and a green. Four people are punting on the water; the punter stands at the back of the boat and holds a long pole. On either side of the chapel are relatively nondescript three-story buildings.

Now, I can see that his is better than mine in certain ways, but there are issues I don't understand. Why are we not allowed to say it's King's College Chapel? We're not supposed to say "river," which everyone would understand, or River Cam, which would be more informative, but we are allowed to say Gothic, which many people won't understand. And one of the nondescript three-story buildings is the very beautiful Clare College. Given these issues with a relatively simple image like this, I foresee real problems at FA with certain articles, and a serious drain on people's time. By all means, if people want to add alt text to FAs, let them do so, and let's even encourage FA writers to do it, but to require it of them would be a mistake. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:03, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

You are not supposed to repeat information in the caption, which is reasonable. Presumably this included the name of the building, and perhaps mentioned the river. Those are not spires, and "stories" is not a helpful way to describe a chuch. Nor are the surrounding buildings at all "nondescript" - a wildly POV statement. My attempt:

5. "Small river in foreground, with four people punting. A wide empty lawn leads to a large Late Gothic chapel with many pinnacles, seen end on with a large arched window, and flanked on either side by buildings in neo-classical style." Johnbod (talk) 17:23, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Yours is good, though it does depend on people knowing what late Gothic and neo-classical refer to. The caption, by the way, was "Williams spent nearly 20 years at Cambridge, eight of them as Provost of King's." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:26, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Oh in that case the Chapel at least should certainly be named. One does indeed have to assume some knowledge, as Eubilides did, but I avoided the precise term Perpendicular (architecture). Johnbod (talk) 17:31, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
(5) is excellent; it's better than (3) or (4) in my opinion, as it's concise and reads the way that a reader's eye would follow the scene. The Chapel's name should be in the caption, though, not the alt text, because the name is also useful to the sighted reader. A typical sighted reader of Wikipedia cannot reasonably be expected to know the name of that building (not everybody hangs out in Cambridge). Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
SlimVirgin's 4 examples illustrate what's wrong with alt text for "portraits" (in the loose sense, including places / buidings). If we consider 2 blind users, of whom A lost his sight after seeing that scene or pictures of it while B never saw the location or a pic of it:
  • Alt texts 1 & 2 probably work for A, who will look up his internal "photo album".
  • Alt texts 3 & 4 do not help to identify the scene, and user A cannot differentiate it from any of the thousands of similar scenes that can be found in Britain - unless the mention of a punt leads him to guess it's either Oxford or Cambridge.
  • None of them is any good for user B. He will have no mental picture of the buildings named in alt texts 1 & 2. But alt texts 3 & 4 are no better for B: the physical descriptions do not assert notability in the real-world sense, i.e. no reason why he should care; and the architectural terms are unlikely to mean much to him. --Philcha (talk) 17:20, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
In the vast majority of cases users are like user B, not like user A, so let's forget about A for now. (3), (4) and (5) are all good for B, as they provide useful info about the image's appearance, and they are all much better than nothing for a visually impaired reader. There is no requirement or guideline that alt text must assert notability (I don't know why notability is even an issue here). It's quite plausible that B knows architectural terms like "pinnacle" and "Gothic", in which case these terms are obviously useful; and even if B doesn't know them, B can look them up in a dictionary. The question about what level of expertise one should expect of a reader is the same as for alt text as it is for regular article text; there's nothing new here. Eubulides (talk) 03:06, 7 August 2009 (UTC)


I'm for the idea of alt text if it assists the visually impaired. I added alt text to all my FAs fairly soon in the discussion. I left one out of Mulholland Drive (film). As usual, I forgot about it. User:Erik brought it to my attention in this thread on my talk page.

So the issues involved are these:

  • The image is associated with the article. It is illustrative. It adds nothing really to the understanding of the film, but it accompanies a discussion of its reception at Cannes.
  • Erik has suggested adding a rather extensive alt text. I object to this. The caption describes the image. No alt text is necessary in my opinion.
  • Erik's suggested alt text is more descriptive than what is necessary, and much more descriptive than the alt text accompanying images that the article actually discusses. So the least informative image has the most alt text.
  • So the question arose: should the image be in the article at all if it adds nothing to the understanding of the article? What does this mean? If an image is so basic that it needs no alt text beyond the caption, does that automatically warrant its removal? Does this new criteria mandate that public domain or free license images should be removed if it has no alt text, even if the caption explains what is in the image? Do all images require alt text on top of captions, or are there appropriate cases where captions are sufficient?
  • I declined to add the alt text, using my best judgment. Erik added it himself.

This is starting to remind me of the haphazard way image policy is applied. No one understands what's going on. We don't have a clear idea of what is required. Gray areas should be discussed, and I hope we can come to a collective understanding before edit wars occur. I personally prefer mutual understanding over making edits to articles despite what I consider to be valid disagreements. I think we should err on the side of holding off of article space edits until we can say what should be there. --Moni3 (talk) 03:07, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Alt text does not affect whether an image is appropriate for an article. If this image helps people understand the film's reception, it's a valid image for that article. Conversely, if it does not add any understanding to the article, it should be removed, regardless of the alt text issue.
  • That caption gave some details about the visual appearance of the image, but not very many. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't a great description of what the image looks like.
  • It's fine for alt text to be briefer when an article discusses an image in detail. After all, alt text shouldn't duplicate material that the visually impaired reader can already read. So it's not at all paradoxical for the least-discussed image to have the most alt text.
  • I attempted to help out redoing the alt text along the lines suggested in the previous bullets.
  • For specific questions like this, WP:ALT suggests asking at WT:ALT; perhaps we can follow up there if there are further questions.
Eubulides (talk) 04:13, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Conversely, if it does not add any understanding to the article, it should be removed, regardless of the alt text issue. I have a significant problem with this, or what I take it to mean. The image does not assist the reader in understanding the multiple interpretations of the film. It does not assist with grasping Lynch's characteristic style, the poisonous culture of Hollywood, or the emotions involved in the story and characters. But it is related to the article because the film was very well-received at Cannes and Lynch got its most prestigious award. If I added to the caption a bit more information, let's say making the current alt text unnecessary (I still think it is), would you still be recommending its removal? Why is one person interpreting or clarifying these issues? How do I know you are right? This is why it reminds me of image policy. Everyone tries to explain it, but everyone has a different explanation.
You changed the meaning of the alt text I provided for Image:BettyMulholland.jpg, making it more about Watts' clothing and hair than her demeanor and the light used to bathe her character, but these issues are specifically mentioned and cited in the article. Yes, I understand many blind readers will not understand the issues with light, but it's an integral part of filmmaking and I don't think we should sell readers short in discussing it.
Will we be neglecting sighted readers by removing images where the caption is sufficient for alt text, or creating confusing overzealous alt text just to keep an image before an alt text guard comes through FAs and removes free licensed images with no text? These are problematic issues that should be settled. --Moni3 (talk) 11:39, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  • My main point is that alt text should not affect the decision whether to include the image; I assume we agree on that point. I'd rather that this discussion not get distracted by disagreements over rules of thumb over whether to include an image. That is an orthogonal issue, which can be taken up in a different thread.
  • It would be fine to move info from the alt text to the caption, if that improves the caption.
  • As per WP:ALT and the W3G guidelines, we cannot remove the alt text entirely; at the very least it should have a placeholder referring the reader to the visual description of the image in the caption or the main text. (This point has come up a lot in this thread, so I added it to WP:ALT.)
  • "How do I know you are right?" The previous bullet is not just my unsupported opinion: it follows directly from what's long been in WP:ALT (well before I volunteered in this area) and what's in the WCAG 2.0 guidelines (see guideline 1.1).
  • "Why is one person interpreting or clarifying these issues?" Because I volunteered and nobody else has. I'd be happy to have help. I'd be even happier to retire from the job and let someone else do it. I don't particularly want to be the alt text guy, but I feel that someone should do it.
  • It's fine to restore info about lighting into the alt text. As usual, it's a matter of editorial judgment whether a particular detail (in this case lighting) is worth mentioning. I was trying to fix gross problems with the alt text and keep it brief; whether that detail is included is relatively unimportant.
  • "Will we be neglecting sighted readers by removing images where the caption is sufficient for alt text, or creating confusing overzealous alt text just to keep an image ...". No. Absolutely not. Please see the first bullet in this comment.
Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Assumptions about visual impairment

(Xover made several good points in a comment indented so deeply in #Alt text for portraits above that I've started a new subsection. Naturally, I'm not going to comment on all the stuff I agree with, only on the places where I'll quibble.)

  • "I'm willing to bet that the chaotic and high-volume nature of this discussion thread ... are a much bigger problem to Graham than lack of alternative text is in most actual articles." Absolutely. And a blind person accessing Wikipedia faces other problems even more daunting. Alt text does not solve all of the accessibility problems a visually impaired person has, compared to a sighted reader. It doesn't even solve half of them. All that alt text does is help visually impaired readers grok important parts of articles that they can't see. This doesn't make Wikipedia perfect; it merely makes it better.
  • "for a fully sighted user to turn off images, use a screen-reader with his eyes closed ... are ... absolutely useless in giving you a true understanding of how a visually impaired user, say, navigates the web." It's quite true that these hacks are only approximations, but they are not absolutely useless, any more than taking driving lessons is absolutely useless for understanding what it's like to drive a car by yourself. For people who do not normally think about the subject, these hacks can provide valuable insight what sort of problems visually-impaired readers run into. The hacks are not the same thing as being blind, of course, and nobody has claimed that they are; but that is a far cry from being "absolutely useless".
For more on the bigger picture about problems that visually impaired people have with technology in general and with web access in particular, please see Shinohara K, Tenenberg J (2009). "A blind person's interactions with technology". Comm ACM. 52 (8): 58–66. doi:10.1145/1536616.1536636. 
  • "writing good alt text is hard!" Actually, no, in my experience, it's typically not hard. I write the alt text, and Graham likes the result. And I am not some super-special alt text guru; I just look at the image and write down what I see, limiting myself to what's obvious and what's not in the caption.

I sense that a lot of the frustration with alt text comes from the desire to make alt text perfect. Please don't try to do that. Just spend a few minutes to make it as good as you can. Then stop. This won't take much time, and you're almost sure to improve the article.

Here's another way to put it. The audience for alt text is not the same as the audience for article text, and alt text does not follow the same standards as article text. It's much more important for alt text to be functional, than for it to be brilliant prose. Please don't waste time trying to make alt text be brilliant prose. (We have better things to do.) Just make it a concise summary of visual appearance. Eubulides (talk) 08:41, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

The formulation “absolutely useless” was of course somewhat hyperbolic, but I do think it's an important point to make: all experience shows that making assumptions about the actual needs of visually impaired users is more likely than not to lead one into making the wrong or at best suboptimal choices. The discussion here is informed by Graham's participation, but the issues are not clear cut; and while having Graham's input improves our understanding immensely, even relying on his' alone is not perfect. However confident we feel in our understanding now, we need to actively seek input from visually impaired users (the WAI xtech list or education and outreach may be able to help here) and expect to keep honing our skills and understanding over time.
The main ting about “switching your eyes off” in order to learn what a blind user will "see" is that you then add the limitation without the coping ability. Your average blind user is infinitely more adept at using a screen reader and braille display than any amount of these sorts of exercises can teach you. If you perform this exercise without that fact firmly in mind you'll end up simulating the wrong thing. Not useless, but with potential to be quite misleading.
As to your third point, writing good alt text is hard; but that's not an argument against writing minimally acceptable alt text right away. I understand that you're currently focussed on answering those who argue against making alt text a FA requirement, which colors the focus of your responses (or at least they would so color mine), but sweeping the very real challenges of writing good alt text under the carpet will not do visually impaired users any favours. We need to start as our ability allows, fail at it, learn from it, and then get better; rinse and repeat. Case in point, different users (as simply different people), using different assistive technologies (basic text to speech, vs. screen readers, vs. braille displays, vs. ...), or with different forms or levels of visual impairment, will all need different things from the alt text (ranging from negligible to significant differences).
In any case, as best I can tell we're more or less in perfect agreement. I'm just trying to inject a little moderation into the “It's so easy, don't worry about it” argument in order to alleviate my concern that we may end up turning simple and easy into stupid and useless. The road to hell being, as we know, quite well paved and regularly maintained. --Xover (talk) 09:26, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Hear, hear. I guess I'm overreacting to stories about it taking X editors Y days to add alt text to an article. (Next time I'll try to remember to write, "It's not that hard.") Eubulides (talk) 09:38, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Eubulides's simplistic comment "Just make it a concise summary of visual appearance" (08:41, 7 August 2009) shows that WP has not through this issue and the most likely result is a requirement that is both too laborious and of little use to the blind. To summarise my comments in earlier sub-sections:
Four types of arthropods showing the acron and 9 head and/or body segments. Trilobites and chelicerates are shown with 7 head segments, and crustaceans and tracheates with 5 head segments. Of these, the first head segment of chelicerates and the second head segment of trachates is lost in development. All four start with an acron at the anterior end bearing compound eyes. All have nephridia on some or all head segments, some of which are lost in development in chelicerates. All - other than chelicerates - have antennae on the first head segment, and crustaceans also have antennae on the second head segment. Only chelicerans have chelicera, on the second head segment and first body segment, and pedipalps, on the third body segment. Crustaceans have mandibles on the third head segment and maxillae on each of the fourth and fifth head segments. Trilobites and chelicerates bear legs on all remaining head segments, but crustaceans and tracheates have legs on the anterior body segments.
This totally confuses me, and I created the diagram, read the cited sources thoroughly, and first read about this topic in 1991 (Gould's Wonderful Life ). Dave souza and I had a discussion further up the page that identified 3 possibilites, and there may be more:
    • It's part of the main article on the subject, e.g. at Arthropod head problem, and the alt text should simply say e.g. "Head structures in main arthropod sub-phyla - see main text for details"
    • In some other cases provide alt text providing the missing information that is shown only in the diagram. Not easy to do concisely, but necessary for readers dependent on the text.
    • An additional intermediate possibility - Arthropod does not describe in detail the Arthropod head problem, it aims for only a quick illustration of the Arthropod head problem's complexity, to reinforce the point made by the mai text "Working out the evolutionary stages by which all these different combinations could have appeared is so difficult that ...". Dave suggested "the various sequences of head segments in trilobites, crustaceans, chelicerates and tracheate arthropods present a complex matrix with no evident evolutionary sequence".
  • For "portraits" that identify individual subjects (people, places, buildings), we can't provide enough details to identify the subject in the limited length of alt text, and it would be difficult to describe the subject unambiguously even in a page or 2 of text. For example can you guess what the subject of this is: "Small river in foreground, with four people punting. A wide empty lawn leads to a large Late Gothic chapel with many pinnacles, seen end on with a large arched window, and flanked on either side by buildings in neo-classical style"? In addition this assumes the blind reader understands the architectural terms "Late Gothic" and "neo-classical". I'd much prefer "View of A from over the River B, showing C on the left and D in the centre". But (small, because it's the answer to the puzzle) "King's College Chapel and the Gibbs building photographed from The Backs, looking east across the River Cam", which IMO is better becuase it tell the blind reader the significance of the pic, was rejected at a recent FAR.
Anyone who wants to draw up rules for alt text needs to study a few hundred pics, of different types and with some appearing in more than 1 article, to begin to provide a useful guide. --Philcha (talk) 10:29, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I have studied hundreds of pictures used in Wikipedia articles, and have summarized what I've found in WP:ALT next to helpful advice from others. WP:ALT is a work in progress and obviously can be improved, but its general principles apply to a wide variety of images.
  • "This totally confuses me". Which part of that alt text is confusing? Every statement in it is clear. There are trivial errors in it, but they can be fixed easily. That alt text is nowhere near as concise and visual as the diagram, but that's common for alt text: we cannot expect miracles. The audience here is expert in reading text and building up mental images as they go, so it's not so bad as one might think.
  • If the body of an article contains all the information that would normally be in alt text, it's fine for the alt text to be a placeholder that merely says where the description of the visual appearance is. This avoids repeating the info, which is a win. (This point has come up a lot in this thread, so I added it to WP:ALT.)
  • Dave's suggestion for the alt text would be fine (but see quibble in the next bullet) for an article where the gist is "This stuff is really complicated! Just look at that diagram! But don't bother to try to understand it." At the other extreme, if the diagram is intended to fully explain the problem, and no other text in the article explains it fully, then the long-winded and complete alt text is the better alternative (or at least, whatever part of it is not duplicated elsewhere).
  • A quibble about Dave's suggestion: "evolutionary sequence" would be better just to say "pattern", as this is both shorter and draws fewer editorial conclusions.
  • "it would be difficult to describe the subject unambiguously even in a page or 2 of text" There's no requirement, or even suggestion, that alt text must uniquely or unambiguously identify an image. Identification is not alt text's job, and it would be completely impractical to insist that it be alt text's job. If a unique ID or name is important, that info should be in the caption anyway; and alt text should not duplicate the caption. Thanks for bringing up this question; to help make this clearer I added to WP:ALT #What not to specify.
  • Also, alt text should not undertake to explain the significance of the image, or to explain details such as naming or authorship that are not immediately obvious from the image itself. Any such explanation (a) should be sourced, and (b) should appear in the caption or the article text, so that sighted readers can see it too.
Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
As mentioned above, that example assumed (wrongly as it turned out) that the location was named in the caption, & was therefore not repeated in alt text. Also above, it seems that your preferred version was "rejected" by Slim Virgin, who wrote it. However I agree writing good (not "brilliant", which no one has suggested) alt prose is difficult. As to names, see my comment way above - WP:ALT assumes that the subject will be adequately covered in the caption, which will usually be correct, and then, over-simplistically in my view, concentrates entirely on describing the composition, ignoring other elements such as style and iconography. Johnbod (talk) 11:17, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
That's a good point: if style is an important visual aspects of the image, then the alt text should describe it (assuming that this does not duplicate the caption or article text). I added a mention of style and composition to WP:ALT #What to specify. Iconography would be more of a problem, though, as it is often so focused on meaning and interpretation that it would require a source and therefore cannot appear in alt text. Perhaps an example of reasonable (and/or inadvisable) use of iconography in alt text would be useful for WP:ALT; can you suggest something along those lines? Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Mentioning the royal diadem on the Greek coin above is a simple example that is sufficiently common-knowledge not to need sourcing. For some readers a mention will be enough; unfortunately there isn't realistically room to describe or explain it in an alt caption for the benefit of others, & you can't use links. I suppose the policeman's uniform and radio in the WP:Alt photo example fall under iconography, which is obviously covered ok in the example as it is now. If describing the Narmer Palette File:NarmerPalette-ROM-back.jpg one would want to mention the relative size of the figures, and so on.
Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos votive 1935.jpg
This image (see Retablo (Latin America)) would be one where both style and iconography have to be dealt with - perhaps one of the "quick and easy" school would like to have a go? Johnbod (talk) 13:16, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation; I added iconography to WP:ALT and tried to give an example for the police officer. I spent about 5 minutes to add alt text for File:Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos votive 1935.jpg in Retablo (Latin America); I'm sure that alt text can be improved, as I'm no expert, but it's certainly better than nothing. Eubulides (talk) 08:15, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Just realised that great works of art are another very difficult category, because describing what makes them great is a matter of interpretation. The "physical description" approach currently recommended in WP:ALT would often produce alt text at least as long as in the current version of {{Annotated image/Arthropod head problem}}. Try for example Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross, where my first reaction on seeing the actual painting (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow) was "Wow, he's shown the crucifiction from two perspectives at the same time, from above (God) and below (humanity)". I can also remember how a Japanese painting (pen & wash?) of a kingfisher sitting on a bulrush impressed me - this captured the essence of the scene in under 30 brush strokes.
Then I realised what a nightmare alt text music will be, as it depends on the performace used in the clip. For example André Previn's version of Brahms' German Requiem has a ravishing operatic sound, while Otto Klemperer's undemonstrative intensity is scary in places. --Philcha (talk) 10:59, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Thanks for bringing up Christ of Saint John of the Cross. In that article, the article text already describes the painting's visual appearance in great detail. For art articles like this, brief alt text would be appropriate, e.g., "See adjacent text." I added words to that effect to WP:ALT #What not to specify.
  • Music is a different issue. It's not a "nightmare", in the sense that hearing impaired readers have much better access to Wikipedia than the visually impaired do, mostly because audio is much rarer than images in Wikipedia. Also, the MediaWiki technology used for audio is so different that most of this discussion is irrelevant to it. Since this thread is about visual impairment, I'd rather take up audio in a different thread, if there's any interest.
Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Agree. I think the point that Xover is making that Eubulides brushes aside with the driving lessons example is that a sightless person thinks differently, uses the brain differently, and this cannot be mimicked by putting on a blindfold. The fact that Graham87 was the only person who figured out Putin was on the left and not the right in the photo example above shows that.[5] None of us sighted people noticed that. If we simplify the process into "just give a simple description", we will be missing the boat completely. —mattisse (Talk) 23:42, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
I think you mis-state the case somewhat with your Putin example. None of us sighted people really bothered to read the alt text very carefully would be more accurate, as we could already see that Putin was on the left, and so automatically saw that in the text. Regardless, without clear guidelines and a clear definition of who our audience is for this alt text I remain convinced that adding it is mostly just busy-work. I'm all for doing whatever we can to help visually impaired editors, but we need to know first of all what it is that they find useful, not what some half-baked project thinks they'd find useful. --Malleus Fatuorum 00:12, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Are you arguing that a blind person like Graham87 does not use his brain differently? You agree with Eubulides? You think the points Xover made are not relevant? —mattisse (Talk) 00:22, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I think that until the problem that alt text is supposedly fixing is properly defined (people who have never seen, people who lost their sight later in life, ...) then it's just a waste of time to discuss anything, because the result will be as ill-defined as the problem currently is. I'm quite happy to let anyone who feels that they're in some way enhancing wikipedia's accessibility by adding alt text for an audience they don't understand to continuing doing so, but I simply don't feel inclined to do so myself. --Malleus Fatuorum 00:57, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree that until the audience is defined, as the two groups you mention would have different needs, that it is a useless endeavor. I have stopped suggesting it in GA reviews. —mattisse (Talk) 01:04, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
This doesn't just narrowly apply to visually impaired editors, as I think Philcha said above. My brother became deaf when he was in his twenties, so I can describe pop songs to him by comparing them to the ones he heard, and of course he can "feel" the beat of the music. But if he'd been born deaf? --Malleus Fatuorum 01:22, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't know. Think of Helen Keller. Much is possible. But we must know how to go about it. —mattisse (Talk) 01:33, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Indenting overflow! Please see #How to go about it below. Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

How to go about it

  • Alt text is a simple technology that aims to help visually impaired people, regardless of whether they're congenitally blind (which is relatively rare) or became blind after birth, or have some sight (more common).
  • Different visually impaired people have different expertise and needs, just as Wikipedia users in general have different expertise and needs. That does not mean that alt text does not help the visually impaired, any more than it means that article text does not help readers at large. Similarly, the existence of differences among visually impaired readers does not mean that alt text is fatally flawed because it cannot address all visually impaired readers equally, any more than the existence of differences among sighted readers means that Wikipedia article text is fatally flawed because it cannot address all sighted readers equally well.
  • It is a resaonably adequate engineering solution to have sighted editors describe images as best they can, using the guidelines in WP:ALT. There is no need to insist on perfection here, or to refuse to add alt text unless unanimity is achieved on alt text's goals, any more than there is a need to insist on perfection in article text, or to refuse to add article text unless unanimity can be achieved on article text's goals.
  • "the problem that alt text is supposedly fixing" This phraseology is contradicted by the strong support for alt text from Graham87 as well as by its strong support by reliable sources such as those at the start of #Alt text helps the visually impaired. There is no controversy among reliable sources that alt text helps the visually impaired.
  • "a clear definition of who our audience is" Thanks for bringing up this problem. For the intended audience of alt text, I added to WP:ALT #Why it is useful a brief summary of some characteristics of visually impaired readers. If this is not clear, or if there's something wrong with this description, can you please specify the problem and propose wording that would fix it?
  • "clear guidelines" Likewise: if the alt text guideline is not clear then let's fix the problem. What about WP:ALT, exactly, is not clear? Can you propose wording that would make it clearer?

Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm kinda skimming, as always, I fear. It seems Eubulides is the principal shepherd of this proposal. So then, Eubulides, would you be willing to play the role of AltTextShepherd at FAC? Rather than passively Opposing 'cause a nom 'cause it has no AltText, or its AltText sucks or whatever, instead just, you know, {{sofixit}}, with appropriate comments to the nominator. Consider it an example of seizing a teachable moment. Ling.Nut (talk) 10:26, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Just to say that in my experience Eubulides did just that, pointing to the guideline and commenting helpfully on proposals. Since implementation has to start somewhere, guiding our proposed best articles to a reasonably acceptable standard of alt text is a good place to begin. Thanks for that assistance. . . dave souza, talk 15:11, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

My reply to assumptions about visual impairment

I tried to compose a reply to the second-last message in the section "Assumptions about visual impairment" but I got edit-conflicted because I spent waaaaaay too long trying to find the link I wanted. Since it's still slightly relevant, Here goes:

I think we should try to cater alt text to people who have never seen before and people who aren't familiar with the subject of the article. I have no idea how to approach alt text for complex paintings like the ones cited above. I once went to the Art Gallery of Western Australia when they had an exhibition of Indigenous Australian art designed for the blind; the tactile diagrams made no sense to me at all. Sighted people told me that they couldn't understand some of the paintings either.

Helen Keller is an interesting case because she had normal hearing and sight until she was struck with scarlet fever. See a letter her teacher, Anne Sullivan, wrote on September 18, 1887; use the find function in your browser to get to it and search for "September 18". In the letter, Sullivan speculates that she has a basic knowledge of colour and other concepts from when she could see before the age of 19 months. In my case, I had retinopathy of prematurity, so I was born with normal sight but lost it shortly after birth. Graham87 06:47, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Why is persondata not a requirement?

WP:Persondata says that it should be on all biographies but yet many featured articles don't have it. Is it not a requirement? Should it be made one? Spiderone (talk) 16:22, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

That's no, and no. Infoboxes are nowhere mandated, and many editors dislike them. It's a matter of personal taste, nothing to do with the FA criteria. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:33, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree. No more of these stylistic requirement for FAs, please. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:36, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Was I wrong to add one to Michael Gomez then? Spiderone (talk) 16:40, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
No, not wrong; as I said, it's a matter for individual editors, nothing to do with tha FA criteria. If you like infoboxes then use them. If you don't, then don't. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:49, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
SlimVirgin: it is not a stylistic requirement, since it does not change the appearance of the article. And Malleus: for the same reason, it's not an infobox. TheGrappler (talk) 22:51, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Actually I would not object to this. It does not involve an infobox, only applies to biographies, and unlike Alt text really is quick and easy to do. How useful it is, or will ever be, is another question. Johnbod (talk) 16:42, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
It will only be useful if it actually gets done. It clearly could be useful - potentially it's the addition of such metadata that will take Wikipedia yet another leap ahead of rival encyclopedias. Of course, it's not directly useful to a reader in a conventional sense, since it doesn't alter the human-readable content of the article. But it does make it machine-readable, so to our robotic readers it is a superb addition. The upshot is that it will allow far more to be done with the information contained within Wikipedia. This transformative power can only be harnessed if persondata is extensively rolled out across the project, but FAC seems a good place to start. A comparison would be with articles that focus on a geographic location (or something found at one): we do expect the inclusion of latitude and longitude information and the template information for that is also machine-readable. This has produced many impressive Wikipedia-mapping applications, which have been useful to our readers. TheGrappler (talk) 22:51, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Other points (around personal preferences; a can of worms not yet ripe for reopening) not withstanding; please note that Infoboxes (especially those about people, organisations, venues, places (including coordinates!) and events; and recently some about products and foodstuffs) also emit metadata which makes our articles machine-parsable. Not only that, but unlike person data, they make them parsable to generic, rather than Wikipedia-specific, tools, using microformats. Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing); Andy's talk; Andy's edits 23:17, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
P.S. Do we mandate the use of citation templates like {{Cite book}} for FACs? They, too emit useful metadata, such as COinS. Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing); Andy's talk; Andy's edits 23:51, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
FAC does not mandate cite templates (nor infoboxes, for that matter), only internal consistency within an article. Dabomb87 (talk) 23:52, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
No, we don't require citation templates. Lots of editors (myself included) hate their inconsistency, the way they chunk up the article, and the fact that they often change. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:53, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
All those citation-template issues could, and should, be addressed, for the benefits mentioned above; then we could re-examine their inclusion in FAC guidelines. Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing); Andy's talk; Andy's edits 23:59, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think cite templates should ever be mandated for the reason that some editors don't find them intuitive, and/or prefer to format citations in a different way than is produced from templates. Dabomb87 (talk) 00:03, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Have to agree. After many years of doing that battle, I don't think the cite templates will ever be stable or consistent in an encyclopedia that anyone can change, and I saved myself hours of headaches by manually citing Tourette syndrome from the get-go. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:24, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Persondata is not an infobox, and for several years its implementation at FAC was routinely requested on all bios; reviewers simply stopped checking when it became fairly standard. Someone could probably find the issue in FAC archives-- it's not new. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:55, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Persondata snugs between "External links" and "DEFAULTSORT" and is normally visible only in edit mode. I became acquainted with it just a couple of days ago while working on Charles L. McNary. I added persondata to the McNary article, and then began telling other biography editors about it at peer review. This JavaScript makes adding the data even easier, although it's necessary to closely examine the data the script adds and to correct anything that isn't quite right. It takes five minutes to do the whole business with the help of the script. Finetooth (talk) 23:53, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Flagged revisions, something else that's bothering me.

I guess many will already know that an implementation of flagged revisions is due to be rolled out for a two-month trial later this month.

I'm somewhat at a loss to understand how a semi-flagged protected FAC could be dealt with, as editors with different rights would see different versons of the article. I guess the obvious objection to my concern is that an article so tagged would probably not be considered stable, and so wouldn't be a viable FAC anyway, but this initial implementation of "passive" flagged revisions is just one of many that may be trialled over the following few months, perhaps leading to an eventual implementation in which all articles are actively flagged. Hence I think it might be wise to consider the implications for FAC (and GAN as well, as a reviewer and nominator have to be looking at the same text) before it's too late.

It's quite possible though that I've completely misunderstood how flagged revisions will work, in which case perhaps someone who understands it better can put my mind at rest. --Malleus Fatuorum 18:20, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Even if the page is semi-flagged protected (or even fully-flagged protected), all users with acoounts (registered users) will see the last revision. On the other hand IP editors (non-registered users) will see the last reviewed revision by default, but they will have an option to see the last revision. Ruslik_Zero 19:39, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
So reviewers such as myself, who are not administrators and who don't have the new "reviewer" status, will effectively no longer be able to correct minor faults, but will instead have to painstakingly list all of them in the FAC? --Malleus Fatuorum 20:05, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
No. Semi-flag protected pages will be able to be edited (with results immediately apparent) by all autoconfirmed users. Only in articles more protected than that would your edits not have immediate effect, but I wouldn't expect many of those to show up at FAC. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 20:07, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
The table here explains things pretty well, I think. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 20:08, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
If it "explained things pretty well" then I would perhaps understand a little better how it's going to work. Suppose I make 10 edits in a row; does a reviewer have to approve each of them individually? What do I see if I'm editing an article with unapproved edits? What happens if the unapproved edits are subsequently rejected. The issue isn't what do I see when I read an article, it's what do I see as a non-administrator/reviewer when I edit an article. Can I revert an unapproved edit, or are only administrators/reviewers allowed to do that? --Malleus Fatuorum 20:16, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
Unless the article is fully flag-protected (or intermediary flag protected, if that level winds up existing and you continue to refuse admin-granted flags), the reviewer doesn't need to approve your edits at all. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 20:19, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I think I begin to understand. So basically if I just ignore all fully flag-protected articles everything looks to me as it does now? --Malleus Fatuorum 20:31, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
What does it mean: "(or intermediary flag protected, if that level winds up existing and you continue to refuse admin-granted flags)". I have never refused a "flag", so I am out of luck? —Mattisse (Talk) 20:35, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
As it looks now, the "reviewer" flag will be granted arbitrarily by admins (like rollback, etc. are now). Malleus does not accept such flags on principle, and therefore presumably will not have the reviewer flag. I'm sure that, if you want it, you will have it. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 20:39, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't really understand how it is going to play out. However, editing is hard enough and stressful enough that if this flagged revision thing is going to make any editing more inconvenient, then that is bad. I don't know how they determined who gets offered a "flag". —Mattisse (Talk) 20:49, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
You slightly misrepresent my position Steve. It is not the granting to which I object, it is the unilateral and sometimes even vindictive removal or threat of removal of these baubles by individual administrators that I object to. But you're quite right, I will be refusing reviewer status, and every other "right" until that issue is addressed. --Malleus Fatuorum 20:56, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

I see a lot of misconceptions. So I want to clarify some things:

  1. The Flagged Revisons will affect only IP (not logged in) editors. For logged in editors there will be no changes whatsoever.
  2. This is even true for fully flagged protected pages.
  3. If the page is not flagged protected all IP editors will see the last revision, like now.
  4. If the page is flag protected (either fully or semi) the IP editors will see the last approved revision (if it exists). They will need to click the special link in order to see the last (unapproved) revision. However all editors (including IPs) will still be able to edit such pages like now.
  5. The difference between the full and semi flagged protections is only in who can approve revisions: semi flagged pages can be reviewed by both reviewers and administrators, while fully flagged pages only by administrators.
  6. There is also such thing as autoapproval (autoreview), which means that if the page is semi flagged protected and an autoconfirmed user (including you, Malleus) edit it, the resulting revision will be automatically approved if before the edit the last revision had been approved.
  7. Regarding the question Suppose I make 10 edits in a row; does a reviewer have to approve each of them individually the answer is no. In realty what needs to be approved is not edits but revisions. In this example only the last revision will need to be approved. So approval can be done from time to time. There is no need to approve every revision. I must stress that approval will only affect the visibility of the revision to the non-logged in users.
  8. There is a live demo on

Ruslik_Zero 10:17, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

Huge alt texts; please note changes at MoS on images

Please note that alt texts should not be essays. Eubulides provides good advice at MoS talk. There has also been much debate about the default size for thumbnails and the inadequate size of text on some maps and diagrams. Nominators may be interested in noting these developments.

In particular, please note that thumbnails are not required to be the default size (currently 180px, which may be raised), and that editorial judgement is expected to take into account the level and intricacy of details within each image, and other matters. Tony (talk) 09:43, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

There is an infinitely more comprehensive discussion of what alt text should contain in several sections immediately above! Johnbod (talk) 13:21, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
A couple points
  • While the MOS definitely should not (and technically never has) require "thumb" sizes, I would still say that the choice of a non-thumb size should be a issue to potentially consider when reviewing images at FAC. There's practically no reason a head-shot of a person needs to be at 400x400, for example, so if people are maxing out image sizes jump because "thumb" is not required and for no other good reason, that needs to be challenged in FACs. We should be defaulting to "thumb" when there's no editorial-based decision to use a larger size, but what is editorial-based should be given a reasonably wide range of allowances.
  • Given how "new" alt texts are on WP, I recommend that those that are reviewing FAC and have issues with the lack or with the wordiness of an alt-text to actually work on adjusting them, or a sample of them, themselves - at least for now. It's one thing to describe that an FAC needs a copyedit (I've been there enough times), and not do anything towards that, because that is a lot of work. But there's reasonable guides and resources on CEs to turn to. Alt texts still are nascent and need guidance, and if you think you can do better, I recommend getting your hands wet to do it, instead of just saying "need better alts". Certainly alt text replacement is not the time sink as CEs. Maybe after half a year as alt text use becomes more common and general approaches for certain classes of images are established can we fall back to "see WP:YETTOBEWRITTENALTTEXTGUIDE for help on alt text writing" for those still new to the process. --MASEM (t) 13:53, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
These days articles at WP:FAC fall into roughly three categories. Some have no text at all; I generally point these editors at WP:ALT, field their questions, and wait for them to fill in some alt text (which they invariably do). Some have beautiful alt text; these I leave alone, or maybe can't help tweaking slightly, but they're done. And some have alt text that needs work; for these I suggest specific improvements. At some point I'd like other editors to help out with this. Eubulides (talk) 08:15, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Quality of Featured articles

On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is a featured article supposed to be? 7? 8? 10? (talk) 20:03, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

They're supposed to be the "best articles in Wikipedia", so turn it up to 11. :) —Erik (talkcontrib) 20:13, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
9.9 is more accurate, as there is no such thing as a perfect article. :) Dabomb87 (talk) 20:16, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Touché. —Erik (talkcontrib) 20:19, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Source checks

Ealdgyth isn't around this week; does anyone have time for source work? For example:

SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:41, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Ack. Reading too fast. She already did that one. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:42, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Did some of the less complicated articles. Still around 20 or so unchecked, but every bit helps. Giants2008 (17–14) 03:58, 9 August 2009 (UTC)


Does anyone have time to add a couple of months to Template:Goings-on? Does anyone want to put money on The Bomb getting to it before anyone else does? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:53, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Actually, I won't have time to do this till tomorrow afternoon (North American time), but if nobody does it, I will. Dabomb87 (talk) 21:40, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
OK, I lied. Done through October. Dabomb87 (talk) 23:53, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Thank you: you're The Bomb !! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:54, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Image review needed

Thanks! Karanacs (talk) 00:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:58, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Anyone? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:24, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I've done four of them. Steve Smith (talk) (formerly Sarcasticidealist) 19:56, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, Steve. It didn't make sense for me to try to pr/ar today with so many of these pending; I will check them again tonight. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:58, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Big Star has been looked at (though some problems to be fixed). --MASEM (t) 23:49, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Candidate list

Does anyone know what to do about the redlinks at the bottom of Wikipedia:Featured articles/Candidate list? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 09:21, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

It looks like the page hit the expensive parser function limit. I think only by removing entries by pr/ar we'll get that back under the limit of 500. (The count is currently 534.) Titoxd(?!? - cool stuff) 09:39, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Template:WP FAC

This template is now compatible with the archive pages for the FACs. For example:

{{WP FAC|Earth|archive=2}} turns into...

Featured article candidate Earth (FAC)

-- [[SRE.K.A.L.|L.A.K.ERS]] 22:15, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks! Dabomb87 (talk) 22:17, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
You're very welcome. -- [[SRE.K.A.L.|L.A.K.ERS]] 23:58, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Family Guy

I have put Family Guy nfor nomination but i do not now how to finish the nomination. --Pedro J. the rookie 19:25, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I removed the FAC nomination. Generally, only the significant contributors to an article should nominate it for FAC. The article was far off from FA quality. I suggest that you take the article through peer review and a good article nomination first. Regards, Dabomb87 (talk) 19:54, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia talk:Featured article review#Another FAR delegate ?

?? YellowMonkey (cricket photo poll!) paid editing=POV 02:46, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Another FAR delegate

See Wikipedia talk:Featured article review#Another FAR delegate. Regards, Dabomb87 (talk) 03:01, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia talk:Lead section#Problem

Given lead sections come under alot of scrutiny at FAC, this might be of interest to folks here. Casliber (talk · contribs) 21:14, 11 August 2009 (UTC)