Proposal:Move references out of article text

From Strategic Planning
Status (see valid statuses)

The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

This proposal is associated with the bolded strategic priorities below.

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation.

This is a featured proposal.
This template automatically categorizes into Category:Featured proposals. All proposals marked by this template should be on this list too.

Proposal:Move references out of the code, or Proposal:Move reference text out of article text.

The proposal calls for community support to implement either a technical or a conventional method, protocol, or style_convention (or any combination thereof) to separate the main reference tag (the one with all the reference text and formatting in it) to a separate section in the article, such as to de-clutter the wikitext as seen in edit mode.


In edit mode, articles and sections with in-body references can be very difficult to read and therefore edit. The convention to place tags exactly where they belong is not at issue, nor is the liberal usage of reference tags to feature in-depth, formatted, and explanatory citations. Still there's a problem, and I feel it affects our editing.

Anyone who regularly edits long articles with lots of citations will testify, though it should be said that there are syntax-highlighting features within certain tools available through user preferences that can mitigate this difficulty. Nevertheless, the standard edit mode should not be encumbered. The "difficulty" is in simply being able to readily separate body text from reference text.

In-body reference text is particularly irritating when trying to read sentences which have been segmented into two or three parts by the in-line placement of large, explanatory references. The tags do not make this difference readily apparent, but when they are small, it is easy for the human reader to parse them and ignore them. Thus it is the main reference tag itself which must be dealt with.

It was proposed long ago that people adopt a convention of simply carriage returning main reference tags, such that they appear on a new line and can be more easily distinguished or ignored by editors. This does not affect how these tags look in view mode, as adjacent returned lines will be collapsed into the same paragraph. This soft-proposal for a merely conventional solution was ignored, and thus a firm, established, well-thought out change is needed - with the technical staff assisting in the solution's implementation site-wide.


The proposal calls for the technical team to contribute their input with regard to how this could be implemented site-wide. With this information, we can then ask the community if these specific options will produce a result that will make editing articles easier or else uneasy... er.

Ostensibly, this can already be done without any added technical capability: The references script will parse the whole page anyway before display, meaning that the main tag does not have to be at the top, and can be below subordinate tags that reference the main one.

Hence a conventional protocol could simply be that we move all main tags from their in-body position to the references section - replacing it with a short reference tag - should work quite well.

At issue then is that these tags would show up in view mode as numbers in the references section. IIRC there already is a tag function that hides these from showing, while still allowing the reference function to work normally.

Key Questions

  1. Will a convention which re-arranges how references are used cause some unmanageable increase in server load?
  2. Will the usage of bots to perform these tasks over millions of articles bring about serious server costs?

Potential Costs

  1. May not make editing easier, as there is a separation of body text and reference text.
  2. Moving text with a reference in it requires that the editor collect both body text and reference text for the move. (A lofty solution to this may be to implement some kind of move tool for specific chunks of text, which then would collect the reference text. This would mean "sending" the cut or copied text to another article, wherein the reference would be placed in the reference section, and the body text into a new section with a default or else editable name.


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Move references out of article text.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. .. Sign your name here!