Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 34

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Bot to bring date linking in articles into line with the Manual of Style

I am trying to get permission to run a bot to implement Wikipedia policy on date linking. If you want me to be given permission, please support my request at Wikipedia_talk:Bots#Bot_permission_please.3F. Thanks. Bobblewik 15:06, 16 December 2005 (UTC)


I'm not sure if this is the right place to bring this up, but, clearly, the guideline for the use of BC vs. BCE and AD vs. CE is insufficient. Although, in my opinion, it's pretty trivial as to which is used (everyone understands both), people are being blocked for 3RR and edit wars are taking place instead of constructive editing taking place. I don't have a solution, but maybe this should be discussed? --Elliskev 15:39, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

You're wrong that everyone understands both - BCE/CE notation is very rare outside academia outside the United States, jguk 16:21, 17 December 2005 (UTC)
How about a personal preference setting? -- User:Docu
That would be great for the people who don't like BC and AD they can press a button and zingo! CE and CBE! Good suggestion is it possible? Dwain 02:28, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
I think most people are smart enough to figure it out. My personal preference is BC/AD, but my personal preference is irrelevant. I'm just tired of seeing revert wars over it. I would love to see it be a preference setting just to make the whole thing go away. --Elliskev 00:58, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

When I suggested that before it was strongly opposed by a small group of users who prefer BCE/CE notation. They argued it was unfeasible, but I don't think it would be as long as we had a developer agreeing to help, jguk 18:20, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

Hi, here's a link to the Village pump discussion of this same topic. Should we centralize the conversation here or there? I like the idea of implementing it as a personal preference! -GTBacchus(talk) 02:22, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
  • I don't see what the problem is. From what I understand if the dating is consistent when an article is created then whatever the dating system was employed should be the one that article uses. I think the use of CE and CBE is just plain silly. It has been suggested that some people don't like BC and AD because of the outside links to Christianity. If that is true then that is even less of a reason to change from the accepted system that is most known and most used and has been around for a thousand years! Someone dislike of a religion is not a valid reason to change. Personally religion does not come into it. However, when I tried to retain the articles in the BC context when they were created that way it was made out that I was a zealot trying to purge Wikipedia of CBE and CE forever which was just utter nonsese, but some people pick up on that and want to fight. I never tried to edit the pages created in CE and CBE I just tried to follow the current rule as I understand it. If only one system is to be used it should be BC and AD for all the reasons already stated and because every encyclopedia that I used as a reference use BC and AD and Wikipedia is already set up for BC and Ad dates on the page 6 BCE for examle it is a re-direct to 6 BC why do that? The edit war was started by people who didn't want to follow the rule of leaving the pages consistent from how they were originally started. Anyway, my several points. Dwain 02:27, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
    Well, the problem is that revert wars are going on, and those aren't good for Wikipedia. The current policy does not say what you said, about leaving articles in the format in which they were created. I, and perhaps Elliskev as well, are proposing that we actually write that into the MoS, and make it official. What you call "the rule of leaving the pages consistent" doesn't exist yet. Before changing MoS though, it's proper to discuss it and get consensus, so here we are. Does anyone know how we can find out whether the technical solution is feasible? Wikipedia:Village Pump (technical) perhaps? -GTBacchus(talk) 02:46, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

From the related discussion at the Village Pump: I agree that the BC and AD system are much more common than BCE/CE, and I wholeheartedly admit that I never use BCE/CE in everyday life. However, I believe that wikipedia shouldn't always simply go by this. After all, this is not the simple wikipedia. As regards to the issue at hand: the terms "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini" have a christian connotation. As such, I believe they are strongly linked to christianity and to the christian parts of the world (or parts with a distinctly christian identity or history, since many parts of northern and western Europe are rapidly secularizing). There are many areas that are not covered by this. One would be ancient Greece, which was an explicitly pagan society. I believe it is inappropriate to use the BC/AD system in an encyclopedia article about e.g. Xenophon, Sophocles or Euripides. I believe an encyclopedia should, in such cases, use BCE/CE. Aecis praatpaal 10:44, 18 December 2005 (UTC) PS. If it is technically possible to use the preference setting that Docu has suggested, I would wholeheartedly support that.

What's the point in talking about all this here when Wikipedia:Eras exists? violet/riga (t) 10:51, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
See you there. -GTBacchus(talk) 11:22, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
violet/riga, I don't know how to interpret the tone of your remark, but my initial statement was that I wasn't sure if this is the right place to discuss it. If the discussion is already underway, I apologize for not finding it. I agree that the discussion should contiunue where it it most appropriate. --Elliskev 19:06, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
  • From my Village Pump post, I would strongly oppose any guideline that suggests making things "consistent" because that's only going to send the edit wars out to the thousands of articles that *are* inconsistent. There will be a land rush by the edit warriors to find "inconsistent" articles and make them consistent with whatever side they're on. You're going to get some reverted to all BC, some to all BCE... and a bunch of brushfire edit wars across the encyclopedia. My suggestion is simply to make changing any editor's personal choice of era a blockable offense. Each editor should be able to choose. Who cares if it's inconsistent? The world is inconsistent when it comes to that usage, and we can reflect the world. It would put an immediate and defined halt on those edit wars. I also concur with Aecis' views on a user-selectable preference to use BC/AD or BCE/CE. FCYTravis 10:55, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
    I've replied to you at Wikipedia talk:Eras. Sorry for the run-around. -GTBacchus(talk) 12:13, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Just to add some perspective: BC/AD seems to be a mostly English language thing. German e.g. uses "vor Christi Geburt" und "nach Christi Geburt" (before/after the birht of Christ). This still has the reference to Christ, but it does not claim "the year of the Lord", which does have a rather strong religious connotation. And not only for non-christians - what about "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" - I know about quite some Christian sects for which this makes AD unacceptable. Making the format a preference would be a nice technical solution, but is that easily possible? Moreover, that opens a new can of worms: what is the default? ;-) Otherwise I think a "follow the first version" policy makes sense. --Stephan Schulz 11:38, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Well as I said on another page I agree with dwain and thats 3 for that idea. Chooserr 00:29, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
    Great, I'm trying to formalize discussion on this over at Wikipedia:Eras and Wikipedia talk:Eras. The reason for formalizing it is that it's not easy to get new policy accepted by the community, and we certainly can't do it without showing we've gone through some kind of process of consensus building. I think we have a good shot with this one, because it's a guideline that has kind of evolved organically - several people have just assumed that the rule already is to favor the original author by default, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to make it really so. -GTBacchus(talk) 02:02, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Calibre notation

This has been discussed inconclusively before. I just found the following in the Economist's style guide. Michael Z. 2005-12-18 01:29 Z

The style for calibres is 50mm or 105mm with no hyphen, but 5.5-inch and 25-pounder. [1]

Year links in examples (year of birth/death)

The Date formatting section very clearly says, adn has said for a long time: "If the date does not contain a day and a month, date preferences will not work, and square brackets will not respond to your readers' auto-formatting preferences. So unless there is a special relevance of the date link, there is no need to link it. This is an important point: simple months, years, decades and centuries should only be linked if there is a strong reason for doing so."

But the examples in the very next section "Dates of birth and death" do not conform to this rule, including a number of links to years standing alone. It would be nice if the examples on this page at least followed the guidelines on this page. But when I changed this a few days ago I was reverted for "making undiscussed changes" although this guideline has been firm for a long time.

Thwerefore I am discussing it now. Is there anyu good reason not to unlike those date elements that are not part of complete dates in the examples on this page, and particualrly in the "Dates of birth and death" section? I will make this change again if no one comes up with a good reason for not doing so. DES (talk) 04:08, 21 December 2005 (UTC)

I support this proposed change. Walter Siegmund (talk) 05:38, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
  • The year of birth and the year of death are years with special relevance to every biography article. Year pages also link back to many biographies in e.g. "1901#Births" or "2001#Deaths" sections. Thus these years should remain linked.
    Obviously, in lists like "List of people by name: Am" there is no need to link the years, unless there is another special reason to do so (such the year on "List of assassinated people").
    The links on years further allow to easily sort biographies by name that aren't categorized by year of birth or death yet (see People by year).
    -- User:Docu
  • We have never had a definition of special relevance. Some people think birth/death date elements are encyclopedic for readers, others people do not. Some people think all dates in history articles are encyclopedic for readers, other people do not. Some people say all dates before XXXX are encyclopedic for readers, other people do not.
Unfortunately we have no statistics on how encyclopedia readers actually use date links. So we are stuck with opinions. I share the opinion of DES and support the proposed change.
Bobblewik 08:15, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
I understand that DESiegel doesn't use them and you don't use them either, but I know how I use them, so to me this is less a matter of opinion.
In regards to the opinion of other wikipedians about the "special relevance", most wikipedians think they are of relevance in biography articles, as most of the several 10,000 articles used to build the year of birth/death categories did have such links. -- User:Docu
  • Any fact in an article should be "encyclopedic". But the only links should be those that lead to useful and relevant information, information that the reader is likely to want or that may well enhance the value of the articel from wich it is linked. In general, in my opnion, the information contained in the year articles is not relevant in this way to biographical articels, nor to most other articles, and thus should not be linked. Had we not used links as a technical hack to enable date prefernces, far fewer dates would be linked. If we ever changed the software so that soem makeup other than a link activated date preferences, there would IMNO be far less pressure to link dates. DES (talk) 16:47, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
    • The timeframe is often important to the article. BTW a useful feature for those being bothered by edits to "2005" appearing in "related changes" several times is the feature "Enhanced recent changes (JavaScript)" available on Special:Preferences. --User:Docu
  • In response to User:Docu : There is no need to link the years in the headline to get a page in a category like Category:2001 deaths, and the category is far more useful than the simple link, as "what links here" has an upper limit -- it will display at most 500 (I think) links, which makes it a poor substitute for a category, as most years are linked far more than 500 times. DES (talk) 16:36, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
    • We built these categories precisely by using the links to years contained in many articles. The number of links to a year page isn't much of any issue any more (it has never been for users of the database dump nor is it any more for those using Special:Whatlinkshere e.g. n 1911). -- User:Docu
  • I am going ahead with removing the links in the examples. DES (talk) 16:36, 21 December 2005 (UTC)
    • I took the liberty to reverse the change. Before deleting thousands of links by bot, let's first get more community input. I added a poll below. -- User:Docu
    • I don't see any need for such a poll, although I have expressed my views in it. I am delaying reapplying the changes to the examples on the MOS page, but not my removal of pointless year links in articles generally. DES (talk) 23:09, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Poll: Should year of birth/year of death be linked in biographies?

More comments

This matter has alredy been settled, IMO, with the more general guideline about not linking years that are not part of complete dates. DES (talk) 20:55, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

I might add that generaly a poll is supposed to have some degree of consensus on its format and length. The terms of this one were set iunilaterally with no discussion at all. I do not nessicarily regard these terms as binding. DES (talk) 08:14, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Bot assisted changes

Comment moved from User talk:Bobblewik Please do not use your bot to enforce style preferences that do not have broad consensus. Many editors, including me, like to link to year pages to let readers get background on the happenings in a particular year; many others do not. It's essentially a British English/American English issue: you leave it up to individual editors, but you don't overpower them with technology. I'm sure that there are plenty of useful and completely non-controversial applications of your bot. AxelBoldt 18:03, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
If the guidance in the style is inadequate, it should be changed. Bobblewik 20:12, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
Yes I agree, and therefore I have undone Tony1's change which was not discussed here and which I don't agree with. Instead I pointed to the guidelines relevant for date linking. AxelBoldt 20:08, 24 December 2005 (UTC)
Your bot is changing birth and death dates from use of a en-dash to a hyphen. Not only is this change gramatically incorrect, it seems like a rather controversial change to assign to a bot. Where did the decision to do this gain consensus?--Alabamaboy 20:58, 23 December 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback. So that people can investigate, can you give an article of where this was done? Bobblewik 21:13, 23 December 2005 (UTC)

Yes, this was done to African American literature. I reverted the change but you can see it in the article's history. If I have made a mistake and there is consensus for this or the hyphen is really already an en-dash, I will rv my own rv. Thanks,--Alabamaboy 02:10, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

I looked at the edits that I made. There was no change for the reader, all that happened was a change from html ndash to unicode ndash. The three versions of short lines (hyphen, ndash, mdash) all look the same to me and it seems that they do to you. If are unhappy with unicode ndash, feel free to use html for the same thing instead. I would be grateful if you could allow the other unrelated changes to remain. Thanks for bringing this up here. Keep up the good work. Bobblewik 13:49, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Date formatting section encouarges unnecessary links

The Date formatting section needs to be fixed. It's encouraging linking of solitary months and days, which goes against Wikipedia:Make only links relevant to the context. For instance, December 25 or 2005 (separately) shouldn't be linked. Only December 25, 2005 should be linked. --Cyde Weys votetalk 21:00, 24 December 2005 (UTC)

Year linking

The changes [2] had not been discussed here, so I undid them and was reverted, again without discussion [3]. So I will begin the discussion now. I disagree with the changes for the following reasons:

  • They link to two guidelines Wikipedia:Make_only_links_relevant_to_the_context and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (links)#Internal links (both of which were conveniently edited by the same user at about the same time to strengthen their position against date linking), without mentioning the equally relevant guideline Wikipedia:Build the web. Either we list all relevant guidelines, or none.
  • The addition used language such as "imortant point" and "strong reason" (and in a later versions even bolding) which is uncalled for. The issue is not any more important than all the other issues mentioned on this page.
  • Whether a given year should be linked or not is an editorial decision that requires judgement. Language such as "Generally do not link" is uncalled for. The links in "They married in 2002 and divorced in 2005" are unnecessary, but the link in "The Manson murders occurred in 1969" is justified because of the entral importance of that particular year in American history and the need to point the reader to the relevant background information.

AxelBoldt 23:02, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

  • I do not fully agree with all the changes in the diff above (for example the link on "nine eleven" in the example quote is particualrly significant and should probably remain, or be converted to a link to an article about the 9/11 attacks). Hoever, i think that in general chngs of this nature should be made. There have been many discussion of this point in the past, and the strong suggestion not to link years when not part of compelte dates except when the link is of particualr value has, i think, fairly broad consensus. I theink that in your example above, the link to 1969 is of little more value than the links to 2002 and 2005, and I would remove all three in an actual article, without discussion, simply pointing to this page. DES (talk) 23:10, 25 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Wikipedia:Build the web only refers to creating relevant links. It certainly doesn't condone wanton random acts of linkage such as this. The people who are in favor of modifying the guideline believe that linking years and dates in these situations is not in context. So what if someone died in 1995 ... the article is about the person who died, and clicking through to 1995 will just give you a random list of all sorts of other things that occurred in 1995. It's not related to the context at all, hence it shouldn't be linked. --Cyde Weys votetalk 23:15, 25 December 2005 (UTC)
  • I fully agree. When year links are not relevant (and IMO they almost never are)Wikipedia:Build the web does not support making them, so there is no need to reference it. There should be some mention that when a link really is relevant, it should be made even if it does not support the date preference mechanism. All this would of course be much easier if date prefernmces did not overload the link syntax. See Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)#Creating syntax for date preference formatting that isn't linking. DES (talk) 23:23, 25 December 2005 (UTC)
  • If the connection to 1969 is important, then those connections should be discussed in the article. In almost every case there is only one reason for linking - for date preferences to work. Any thought that only the first instance of a date should be linked is pointless. It would be better NEVER to link dates than have preferences alter only some date formats --JimWae 23:19, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

... are used both for links and for date formatting. Isn't this dual use of ... the underlying cause of the problem and confusion? Could this dual use be changed? For example: date formatting would only work if the full date were placed in brackets. Examples: December 26, 2005, 26 December 2005, December 26, 26 December. (You must be in edit mode to see my examples; sorry.) Is this or something similar, such as using {[...]}, technically possible? Editorially feasible, over time? Hmains 16:31, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

Links to years, just like links to anything else, should be made when they are relevant, i.e. when by following the link the reader will gain useful background information. Whether they are relevant in a particular situation depends on the context and on editorial judgement. I don't agree that almost the only reason for date linking is date preferences (which personally I consider silly since they don't work for our main audience, anonymous readers), nor do I think that year links are almost never relevant. AxelBoldt 17:20, 26 December 2005 (UTC)

  • Perhaps someone could give one example of a situation in which linking to a solitary year is relevant to an article - somebody somewhere gave 1969 as a year that he'd link in articles about US unrest. Sometimes it is "interesting" to see what else happened in a year - but there is always lots much there that is NOT relevant, and anything relevant could & should be covered in the article. There is a real concern about overlinking - take a look at the intro to Thomas Jefferson and imagine what it would look like if every year were linked. Another technical possibility here might be to have the years linked but not appear as links UNTIL they were mouse-overed --JimWae 06:44, 27 December 2005 (UTC)
    • I'd personally rather see someone come up with a reason why such links are harmful, such that they should be summarily removed from an article on sight and vigorously defended from re-addition. All this hand-wringing over linked years has me puzzled. Linked years bring absolutely no harm whatsoever to Wikipedia, and provide the benefit of allowing users to click on that link to see what else may have happened in that year. Delinking these years provides no benefit whatsoever except to force the articles to conform to the style preferences of some small subset of Wikipedia editors. Ξxtreme Unction|yakkity yak 16:03, 27 December 2005 (UTC)
      • I dont feel very strongly on the issue, but I still definately think that they are generally bad because thay offer no positive benefit, and are actually harmful because they are missleading (not to us I know, but I remember when I was new I was puzzled why links were made to something which is essentially unrelated to the topic). Also, having many links actually makes the text more difficult to read. (p.s. I am sure everyone agrees that sometimes date links are good, e.g. it is nice to put into context when someone was born etc.) Martin 16:32, 27 December 2005 (UTC)

Regarding another example where a year link is useful: typically in historical articles when you're discussing an important event, you want to invite the reader to explore the historical situation at the time. Example: you link 1789 when talking about the French Revolution. You broaden people's perspective, you encourage serendipitous discoveries, that's what this site is all about. Why did we write the page 1789 in the first place? AxelBoldt 00:28, 28 December 2005 (UTC)

In reply to Extreme Unction's question: Yes, the fact that there are so many links renders the What Links Here feature useless. The other day, when I was going through some pages like [[1828]] and was hoping to find some relevant information to add. But with more than 2000 links this is hopeless. This and AxelBoldt's comment just gave me the idea for a good criterium:
  • Include links to year pages iff you think the year article could gain from listing your article.
  • Corollary: If you think your article could be a candidate for a "Year in ..." article, use [[2999 in ...|2999]] instead.
What do others think? Should we make this a policy? Common Man 20:36, 11 January 2006 (UTC)
This would be a very helpful guideline for my work. Thank you, Common Man. Walter Siegmund (talk) 02:51, 12 January 2006 (UTC)
That "year in ..." linking screws up preferences when used with full dates. I'd just as soon get rid of it entirely, as not being that useful and causing too much damage. Compare, with preferences set to either "16:12, 15 January 2001" or "January 15, 2001", the following:
The first two dates in the first line don't appear the same, do they? Yet they are the same in the second line when the "year in ..." link is not used.
Then try it again with preferences set to either "16:12, 2001 January 15" or "2001-01-15 16:12:34"; no subtle difference in this case, the preferences simply don't work at all when the "year in ..." link is added. Gene Nygaard 11:50, 13 January 2006 (UTC)