WeRelate:Suggestions/Ref Tag Improvement

Contents

Issues

The ref tag is the tool used to create footnotes. It should be improved, or replaced with an alternative, to better integrate and manage WeRelate's library of sources.

  1. If the name parameter is used, the text is ignored. This is too limited. It is frequently desirable to create footnotes with "pinpoint sourcing" or added explanatory material, in addition to referring to a source. This is basic footnote functionality that is missing from the current ref tag.
  2. It would be nice if the ref tag could create footnotes that were able to leverage the collection of source citations that are stored on WeRelate's source pages.

Proposal to Provide Useful Footnotes

If the name parameter is missing, the text between <ref> and </ref> should create a footnote using that text. That is the current behavior so no change needed.

If the name parameter is used, the text is ignored. This should change. The footnote should link to the source as it does now, but in addition, if text is provided, it should be used as the text of the footnote.

The current workaround to this situation is to combine the ref tag with the #S1 notation, e.g.,

<ref>[[#S1|GMB]] P. 201</ref>

However, this creates a footnote without adding any link to S1 to show that S1 was referenced, losing some of the benefit (some might argue, the primary benefit) of the ref tag.

One approach might be for an entry like

<ref name="S1">P. 201</ref>

to create a footnote similar to

  ↑  S1. P. 201

In this example, the up-arrow points to the spot in the text where the footnote's superscript occurs. "S1" represents some kind of link pointing to source citation 1. Note that source 1 should also have an up-arrow added to it to point to this footnote to maintain an accurate record of all references to source 1, so it won't be deleted while there are still dependent footnotes referencing it.

(Another approach might be to have every use of [[#S1]] add an up-arrow to source 1 reflecting that it has been referenced.)

Proposal to Use Stored Citations

The current description of using the ref tag, for references other than cited sources, requires manually embedding citations as footnote text. A typical example would be

<ref>Pioneers of Massachusetts, p. 266</ref>

This has, in practice, resulted in incomplete and non-standard citations even when used by good recordkeepers, and virtually unusable and ambiguous citations when done carelessly.

This behavior (illustrated on the wikipedia pages for the ref tag) should be discouraged. One alternative would be to create a full-fledged source citations, and separately creating footnotes to that source using the ref tag in one of the manners described above. Alternately, the ref tag could be enhanced to leverage the source citations stored on the Source pages in a more automatic manner.

One approach would be if the name parameter could hold the title of a source page, e.g.,

<ref name="Source:Wheeler, Albert Gallatin. Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America">Page 200 gives the wrong wife for John Wheeler, and this error has been copied by many subsequent researchers.</ref>

This could create a footnote that starts with the full citation of the source that is stored on the Source page, and appends the footnote text, if any, i.e.,
  ↑  Wheeler, Albert Gallatin. The Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler family in America. (American College of Genealogy , 1914). Page 200 gives the wrong wife for John Wheeler, and this error has been copied by many subsequent researchers.

(Is there some variant of transclusion that could grab just the source citations off the Source page? There may be alternate approaches to this, if so.)

Proposal for Listing Sources and Footnotes

There may be some value in considering whether all references to a source should be listed together in a group. Because of the bi-directional links from reference to footnote and back, it may not be necessary to list footnotes strictly in the order they appear in the narrative. It may become more useful to present an organization like the following:

  ↑  source citation 1
  ↑  text of citation
  ↑  footnote 1
  ↑  footnote 8
  ↑  source citation 2
  ↑  footnote 5
  ↑  source citation 3
  ↑  text of citation
  ↑  note or sourceless footnote

The up arrows on the source citations would point to textless footnotes (i.e., <ref name="S1"/>), while the other up-arrows would point to where the reference occurred.

Neutral watchers

cos1776

Admin Follow up (Oct 2016)

We are currently working through the backlog of suggestions. Due to the age, it is possible that all or part of this has been resolved or is no longer a pressing need.

The need is less pressing than it used to be because the cite and [#S1] were accepted and now get renumbered when sources are rearranged or deleted, as I understand things. At the time, the response was that everything should be done with the ref tag. That said, all these improvements would add functionality that is occasionally useful. Further comments added below. --Jrich 03:26, 1 November 2016 (UTC)

There are 3 specific sub-requests.

A. Proposal to Provide Useful Footnotes

Summary: Request to activate text for "ref name" parameter and to allow for links to WR Sources in that text.

Oct 2016 Status: This currently exists, so it may be a syntax misunderstanding.

The "ref name" tag is for naming footnotes and is usually used when you wish to cite the same exact source more than once. The first time you cite the source, you define the footnote name as follows:

<ref name="footnote name">content</ref>

where the content can include links to WeRelate Sources. For each subsequent time you wish to cite that same exact source, you invoke the named footnote by using:

<ref name="footnote name" />

Finally, to render the References list on the page, you add <references/> at the end of your text.

Example:

Markup Renders as
He died in Brookfield.<ref name="Pope1900">[[Source:Pope, Charles Henry. Pioneers of Massachusetts (1620-1650)|Pope, Charles Henry. Pioneers of Massachusetts (1620-1650): A Descriptive List, Drawn from Records of the Colonies, Towns and Churches. (Boston: The Author, 1900)]], 19.</ref>
He ate too many sausages.<ref name="Pope1900" />

His will was not settled for four decades due to prolonged court battles among the heirs <ref name="Pope1900">Described on p. 25. The children claimed his second wife, who was the executrix, hid many assets from the court.</ref> <references/>
He died in Brookfield.[1]
He ate too many sausages.[1]
His will was not settled for four decades due to prolonged court battles among the heirs [1]
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pope, Charles Henry. Pioneers of Massachusetts (1620-1650): A Descriptive List, Drawn from Records of the Colonies, Towns and Churches. (Boston: The Author, 1900), 19.
I believe this is an incorrect assessment of what was asked for. What was asked for was the ability to refer to an already named source plus have the text provide details specific to that current citation of the text. Each citation, if a source is cited multiple times, is likely to at least have a different page number, and use of ibid is dangerous as a later editor may add or delete footnotes, changing the order in which things are displayed, making the ibid refer to the wrong source. So, if the name Pope1900 was already defined, subsequent citations should be able to add unique page numbers or commentary. This is a practice that is seen more than commonly (universally) in footnoted text, e.g., see almost any NEHGR article where additional details, important to some readers, but not to others, are placed in many footnotes. See the addition added above. It is desired that the third footnote, instead of being only footnote 1 identifying the source, might also list the commentary. How to tell people the discussion of the third point is not on page 19 as given in the first footnote?
Addendum: Clearly what is being asked for is not how the ref tag works today. Hence the request. However, this is an almost universal practice, as mentioned above, in footnoted text, and additionally, the various requests on this page reflect the need to adjust the ref tag to work with the Source namespace, which provide a central dictionary of Sources, something wikipedia does not have, so never built into the ref tag. --Jrich 03:26, 1 November 2016 (UTC)

To cite multiple pages of the same source with footnotes, your options include:

  1. PREFERRED - Use the <ref> tag to create short citations with page numbers in footnotes in combination with a standard WeRelate source citation.
Note: Jrich mentioned this option above in reference to the second proposal. It is currently the preferred method.
  1. ALTERNATE - Use named references in conjunction with Template:Rp [1] to specify an in line page number.
Note: template not available here at this time, but could be created if desired.

Does this satisfy your first request? --cos1776 16:50, 31 October 2016 (UTC)

When the Rp template is here I can assess whether it works. There is too much probability that the wiki software would need to be upgraded in order to use it, and not being a wikipedia user I am both unfamiliar with it and probably am not capable of assessing whether it can be made available here. Most of the time I have tried to investigate templates not installed here that has been the case because they use a conditional or some other feature that was added in versions later than what is at WeRelate.
No method I suggested satisfactorily answered the problem. The only one that worked <ref>Pioneers of Massachusetts, p. 266</ref> "resulted in incomplete and non-standard citations even when used by good recordkeepers, and virtually unusable and ambiguous citations when done carelessly." Sure, I as a Massachusetts researcher, know what this source is, but what if somebody mainly working in a different country or different region were to see that? It is an unsatisfactory reference. --Jrich 03:26, 1 November 2016 (UTC)

(This Suggestion will be moved to the archive if no response or objection is received within 10 days.)

B. Proposal to Use Stored Citations

Summary: Request the ability for the name parameter to hold a full source title - OR - the ability to transclude full citation from Source page.

Oct 2016 Status: As demonstrated above, the name parameter can hold text and/or links, so I think the first part of this second request is satisfied.

Regarding the transclusion, the answer is not immediately obvious, so one of us would have to continue to investigate that possibility.

Given that we already have the ability to use any text (and links) in a footnote and the ability to produce a References list that is a combination of full WR source citations and custom footnotes, will you accept using these methods to satisfy this second request? --cos1776 16:50, 31 October 2016 (UTC)

Again, incorrect assessment. Missed the same point as case #1. Further, the goal is to get a full citation, not just "Pioneers of Massachusetts", but avoiding having to type it all in by hand, rather to leverage the source citations already found on the Source pages. Many footnote only involve the narrative, and if they are part of a discussion refuting some source, it may well be that no source citation was created. If the name starts with "Source:", then transclude the full source citation of the named source page. --Jrich 03:26, 1 November 2016 (UTC)

(This Suggestion will be moved to the archive if no response or objection is received within 10 days.)

C. Proposal for Listing Sources and Footnotes

Summary: Request ability to group footnotes together by source vs the usual sequential order

Oct 2016 Status: This ability does not exist in our present version of Mediawiki, but appears to be available in newer versions with the ability to define reference groups.[2]

This third request will be retained pending software upgrades. --cos1776 16:50, 31 October 2016 (UTC)