Proposal talk:Forbid tags (editing process templates and metamessages) in articles

From Strategic Planning
Latest comment: 13 years ago by Brya in topic Tags are useful to readers

This proposal...

Thread 1

Has many problems, first of all does "all templates" include article navigation templates such as seen at Gelderland? Also putting them on a separate page is a bad idea, as having them there acts as a way of pointing out to the readers of the article that the article itself may have issues (neutrality, no sources) that effect the reliability of the information. Also this proposal seems to commit a Converse accident fallacy. Furthermore there is no deadline so it shouldn't matter how long those "abhorrent templates" are there. 04:20, 29 August 2009 (UTC)Reply

Obviously it is not true that "having them there acts as a way of pointing out to the readers of the article that the article itself may have issues (neutrality, no sources) that effect the reliability of the information." as there is no observable relationship between the properties of the article and the presence of such templates. Some of the most horridly unreliable, biased, unsourced, etc articles are free of templates. Some quite respectable articles have had templates for years and years. In practice a template is meaningless except as an indication of an impulse of some passer-by and/or of the internal politics of a Wikipedia-project. The reader (even if he is not scared away by the template) is not helped one itty bit.
        By contrast such a template "itself [almost invariably has] issues (neutrality, no sources) that effect the reliability of the information." Mostly it is completely mysterious what the template-paster meant when he put it there. It may indicate no more than that he was in a bad temper or just wanted to put in a monkey wrench in the mechanism of Wikipedia.
        If there are issues with an article (which probably is true for most articles in the English Wikipedia, perhaps even all articles) then these can just as easily be addressed on a separate page. - Brya 07:47, 29 August 2009 (UTC)Reply

Thread 2

Against. If there are problems with an article, this should be annouced in a prominent way: with templates in the article.--Avron 18:02, 30 August 2009 (UTC)Reply

Thread 3

Avery tools have issues and templates isn't the last one. But is it better without templates? One template, you omitted to mention is the notability tag. Without it i think there will more Prod & Afd because the absence of that tag won't discourage editors thinking that a notability issue need to be addressed, they will switch to more constraining tools & actions. --KrebMarkt 15:13, 11 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

Thread 4

Against this as well. Prominently displayed templates are useful for several reasons. Not only do they alert readers to potential issues with an article, but they also inform them about what Wikipedia itself is: a work in progress that can always use more volunteers. Presenting articles with issues as finished works is dishonest to readers; it also misses a key opportunity to educate readers about Wikipedia's policies and guidelines and to invite them to contribute. Themfromspace 02:46, 12 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

It may be true that "Presenting articles with issues as finished works is dishonest to readers" but that certainly is the practice now. And clearly these templates do not "educate readers about Wikipedia's policies and guidelines and [...] invite them to contribute" but scare them away. The proposal is to reduce dishonesty and hypocrisy. - Brya 10:40, 16 September 2009 (UTC)Reply
As to "there will more Prod & Afd because the absence of that tag won't discourage editors thinking that a notability issue need to be addressed" obviously there are massive amounts of pages that only consist of templates warning that there is not really a page there to begin with. It would not hurt in any respect to delete these pages (except those who are proud of the number of pages in Wikipedia). - Brya 10:46, 16 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

Thread 5

Against. A lack of templates gives the impression that this article is bona fide, authentic, clean, and can be relied upon for information. In my experience (15000-20000 edits, a few years) Wikipedia articles are likely to contain hasty generalizations, guesses rather than facts, serious misinformation, frequent disinformation, propaganda and advertising. The public will NOT check a different page. We absolutely have to have some way of flagging articles with something wrong. It is then up to the editors to correct them and clear them away. With no flagging there is not only no indication of a need, there is no motivation to do the work required for a good article. People like to see themselves in print. They do not like to have to earn that privilege. The article may look more esthetic without templates and be 100% wrong. The devil hath ways, said a certain English bard. Also in my experience the main persons I have seen threatened by templates are concerned for their opinions and original research. They want to foist their views on the public under the guise of being encyclopedic. No, we need the Wiki-police, we need the threat of being cited, and we need to inform the public up front not to trust this article until more work is done on it. Without policy enforcement there is no encyclopedia, only the wishful or specially purposeful subjective babble of humanity as if in a dream. I'm only on here because truth can be added to the articles. When that is no longer possible I will not look at another Wikipedia article even in passing. I see the opinion on this measure is mainly against. As we are mainly experienced editors, that speaks for itself.Botteville 19:53, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

  1. Obviously it is true "The article may look more esthetic without templates and be 100% wrong.", but there are many such articles that fulfill just that description, full of errors and free of templates, just like there are many articles full of templates and free of errors.
  2. It may also be true that " Without policy enforcement there is no encyclopedia", which makes it all the more strange that there is so little policy enforcement, and that PoV-violations (and even Original Research violations) are so common. This as opposed to templates which are very common, indeed.
  3. "I'm only on here because truth can be added to the articles." That is a very good example of what is wrong with Wikipedia: most users are interested only in their own bit of truth, no matter how biased, and there is not much room for actual facts. - Brya 06:38, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Thread 6

Strongly for:

  • The place for all editorial requests is in the Talk page, not in the article. That is a very basic rule of Wikipedia and the very reason talk pages exist at all.
  • Placing an editorial tag is an extremely arrogant act. It tells other editors, "My opinion is that X should be done to this article; my opinion is more important than your opinion; my priorities override your priorities; and my time is more valuable than yours, so *you* do what *I* want".
  • Tagging an article does not improve it a single bit. Inserting a tag that says "article is in state A, should be in state B" moves the article from state A to a state C that is *further* away from B than A was. So tagging is a form of vandalism, and robot-assisted tagging is mass vandalism.
  • Editorial tags do not carry useful information to readers. Even the "unreferenced" tag is useless because (a) *no* article in Wikipedia should be considered reliable, and (b) given the way the tags are applied, articles without the tag cannot be assumed to be more reliable than those with the tag. Ditto for NPOV.
  • Many editorial tags, like "orphan", "cleanup", "wikify", "expand", etc. do not have even the false excuse of being warnings to readers.
  • The existence and placement of editorial tags is absolutely NOT a consensus. Even the "unreferenced" tag was voted among only ~30 editors who took part on its design, so obviously were in favor of it. Even among those editors, less than 30% were in favor of placing it at the top of the article. So calling it "consensus" is a lie, pure and simple. The other tags had even less support. Editorial tags were inserted all over wikipedia because automated tagging allows one editor to "leave his mark" on thousands of articles with very little effort, and editors who wield robots are perceived as being "authorities".

Unfortunately the editors who read policy discussion pages, like this one, tend to be editors who *like* discussing policies and writing rules; that is, editors who like to manage the work of other editors, more than editing the articles themselves. So it is not surprising that those editors generally like editorial tags — which, as said above, are not editing tools, but management tools. I wish I could be more positive, but watching the galloping vogonization of Wikipedia is really depressing. All the best, -- 14:21, 26 January 2010 (UTC) (Jorge Stolfi)Reply


Some proposals will have massive impact on end-users, including non-editors. Some will have minimal impact. What will be the impact of this proposal on our end-users? -- Philippe 00:09, 3 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

Although this propsal is aimed primarily at the users ('editors') and promoting peace and quiet, it will also have an impact on the reader. The reader will no longer be hindered by these templates, and will be able to see the article itself a lot better. Also he will no longer be distracted by the opinion (often unsubstantiated) of some passer-by who pasted a template. The reader will be able to make up his own mind as to what credibility is to be given the article. This is also true of those articles that now have no template but do have issues (which will usually be the case, there are very few flawless articles); those readers who assume that if there are known issues there will be a warning template will no longer be misled. This will result in a lot more honesty, and a lot less opinion. - Brya 17:32, 4 September 2009 (UTC)Reply
More Prod & Afd see my reply above --KrebMarkt 15:14, 11 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

I forgot to mention this earlier, but you might want to take a look at this, as a similar proposal has been suggested and rejected many times on Wikipedia. 02:39, 12 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

Yes it is not all that surprising that many on Wikipedia have a vested interest in playing the template-pasting game, which is why the proposal suggests handling this at the Wikimedia-level. This culture of hypocrisy is a danger that drags on Wikimedia as a whole. - Brya 19:00, 17 September 2009 (UTC)Reply

There's an impact all right. If this measure is passed the encyclopedia is in danger of passing through the bronzen gate into the world of dreams, a pretty serious impact. I'm not perfect, I need to be corrected. What about you?Botteville 19:56, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

« All » templates...

This « all » makes, for me, the question impossible to be answered. If we talked about stubs templates, I would say : very good idea, let's forbid them. But, this point of view can't be enlarge to « all » templates. Sorry. Is there some more detailed proposals ?
Bonne journée, cordialement, --Wikinade 08:38, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

I thought the idea was to provide a range of templates from which the appropriate ones could be selected. You sound as though you would accept some corrections but not others. If the template does not fit, don't use it!Botteville 19:59, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
I don't, of course ! Unfortunately, I can't remove as long as other Wikipedians are quite convinced it's the good thing to do. So... --Wikinade 10:53, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Usability point

I agree to say that templates are ba, but for different reason. The make the code unbearable for the contributore who are not used with it.

I would say, replace the templates by something out of the code, with a special "add baneers" box. So the template code is not anymore in the page but it can be changed through the box.

-- 08:46, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Disagree. We need the ability to flag a specific location where something wrong or questionable is said.Botteville 20:02, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
But that is not what these templates are doing. I will give you even money that there are more "specific location[s] where something wrong or questionable is" that are not marked by a template than those that are marked. Also, probably there are more templates that are there from a desire to defend a particular interest than are indicating "a specific location where something wrong or questionable is said". - Brya 06:47, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply


There are some issues with this proposal -- as with any. Overall, though, it may be one of the most powerful changes that can be made to focus on article content as opposed to bureaucratic cruft.

Let's take a look at these issues:


This proposal is intended to address tag vandalism: the progressive destruction of articles by the insertion of material other than article content.

'All' Templates

It's clearly the intent of this proposal to address the scourge of tags: metacomments about the article itself, rather than the topic of the article. These tags usually are templates formatted as full page width boxes (eg Template:Citations missing); recently they have come to take the form of snarky little inline complaints (eg Template:Citation needed).

While personally I have questions about templates outside of these limits, the intent of this proposal is clear enough and I've moved the page to reflect that. I hope we can avoid straw men now.


I would not be comfortable moving on from Scope before discussing the possibility that an editor might insert the same sort of metamessage directly, without use of any template, even by subst:.

Even mentioning the idea risks BEANS but for one, I'd just as soon plug up the loophole now. Future editors, beware! It's wrong to complain about article content within the body of an article, no matter how you do it. It's not okay because you didn't use a template, because you didn't transclude from userspace, or because you didn't transclude at all. It's just not okay.

Most editors would never even entertain this sort of vandalism. Would you open an article for editing and, somewhere in the middle, write <- but that might be a lie? Probably not.


There is no issue associated with the amount of work needed to clean up tag vandalism. Yes, there's a lot of it, because it's been tolerated for so long. Nor am I confident that the tag vandals themselves will clean up after themselves. But I am willing to hope that the same sort of obsessive, process-obsessed individual will step up and assiduously remove tags when found. Many editors will remove tags with bots or semi-bots.

Much editing effort is expended in process, rather than content generation and improvement. This will not change, nor will this proposal worsen the imbalance.


Tag vandalism, when not done wholly out of base motives, stems from an inability to accept and understand the purpose of Talk pages. One reason that I embrace the MediaWiki engine in my own projects is that it supports talk pages. This is a truly brilliant concept, not found in other wiki engines. In those, content and metacontent is mixed indiscriminately on the same page.

MediaWiki actually offers at least six levels on which to contest article content:

  1. Mainspace
  2. Main Talkspace
  3. Projectspace
  4. Project Talkspace
  5. Userspace
  6. User Talkspace

In addition, issues can be raised (on English Wikipedia, anyway) before ArbCom, Village Pump, and snarky emails to admins, bcrats, stewards, and Jimbo.

Let's recap this. Mutt and Jeff disagree on the correct number of pancakes that constitute a short stack. First, they edit and re-edit Pancakes; then they post arguments on Talk:Pancakes. Mutt may write Wikipedia:Pancake-related articles may not contain the number three; Jeff may respond with a heated rebuttal on Wikipedia talk:Pancake-related articles may not contain the number three. Furious edit warring ensues. Frieda-the-admin leaves a stern warning on User talk:Mutt; Mutt sends a snarky email to Buffy-the-admin, who leaves a stern warning on User talk:Jeff. Both Mutt and Jeff produce clever little userboxes and display them respectively on User:Mutt and User:Jeff. The edit war escalates as pages are moved randomly and personal attacks are left on third party user pages, Talk:Flour, and the Pump. Frieda and Buffy each block their friends' opponents and unblock their friends; and the matter eventually splats onto some subpage of ArbCom, which generates a dozen related subpages and a flurry of edits to various talk pages and yet more snarky emails. In the end, the innocent are tainted, the guilty are chided, and bystanders in the gray area severely punished. Pancakes is protected from further editing in some arbitrary state (possibly defining a short stack as four) and everyone is either happy or silenced.

Tell me why, in light of this plethora of fora, we need to create Template:Four and transclude that onto Pancakes?

Really, there is one and only one place to discuss matters of article content: the talk page associated with the article. Metaforum shoppers should be shot.


There is a concern, held honestly by some editors, that inferior articles should be tagged not for the benefit (or harm) to other editors but as fair warning to our readers: the people for whom, presumably, this project exists.

This concern actually touches a huge number of philosophical issues, none of which have been settled:

  • What is the purpose of Wikipedia?
  • Who is a Wikipedia user?
    • Who is an editor?
    • Who is a reader?
  • What is an article?
    • What is a good, bad, finished, stub, or disputed article?
  • Can Wikipedia be trusted?
    • If not, what are we to make of the fact that millions of human beings do?

You are welcome to expand this list. None of these issues are settled; none will be unless and until those who disagree are excluded from the project.

One principle has been settled, although given the current acceptance of tag vandalism, it is honored in the breach:

Mainspace is for content as distinct from process.

Tag vandalism is flagrant disregard for this principle and should be banned; persistent tag vandals should be punished vigorously.

Semantically, article tags such as Template:Citations missing are either redundant or contradictory. That is, an article represents at all times the outcome of the editing process: a consensus among interested editors. Such a tag states, in essence, that this consensus is wrong. While this may be true in some absolute or abstract sense, the basic principle of Wikipedia -- The Wiki Way -- is that consensus among wiki participants is the only determinant of what is.

The idea that this principle may be wholly inappropriate for a project purporting to gather and dissiminate facts is irrelevant to the question of whether Wikipedia adheres to it. It does.

Therefore, on a strictly logical basis, all such tags are wrong.


It is quite reasonable for content to be rated in some way. (Please see, eg WOT: Web of Trust and the WOT home page.) User ratings are distinct from editor infighting in that they are assigned by all users, not primarily by those involved in creating site content.

Typically, sites are rated on other sites. WOT merely integrates site ratings with a clever browser widget. There is an obvious conflict of interest if a site attempts to rate itself. However, the sheer size and complexity of Wikipedia suggests internal support for user ratings. I endorse this idea, although the mechanics are far from clear.

Let us see, however, that when one editor tags an article with a complaint about its content, he is not providing users with an impartial user rating. He is simply adding to the claims made by that content.

Let George Do It

Tag vandals are just lazy cheats.

A habitual tag vandal spends his editing time in this way:

  1. Call up an article (more or less at random or according to occult inspiration).
  2. Scan article for one or more shortcomings, real or imagined.
  3. Select and apply one or more complaint / argument / needs improvement tags.
  4. Loop until bored.

Presto! The so-called editor has raised his edit count without doing any real work. Whatever shortcomings he found, remain. This would be funny except that, all claims to the contrary, edit count is the primary determinant of privilege and status within the community. Minimum edit counts are required to vote for the Board of Trustees; Requests for adminship succeed or fail largely based on the edit count of the candidate, although personal popularity may be more important, with actual competence a distant third factor. Edits are how new editors establish themselves -- good edits, poor edits, useless edits, it doesn't really matter so long as the edits don't upset any individual or group too much.

(Right about now, my friend, you are shouting NO!; I respect you for that. I'll just ask you to take a deep breath, maybe a short break with a trip to the refrigerator, bathrooom, or both. Then admit it's true, however deplorable.)

The correct way to edit this project is:

  1. Call up an article on a topic with which you are familiar, or with which you might like to become familiar.
  2. Scan article for one shortcoming, real or imagined.
  3. Research the topic and attempt to determine whether the shortcoming is real.
    • This may, and usually should, require study of an actual printed book. There is little point collecting all the cruft swirling about the web into one big basket of cruft. Google works well enough.
  4. Correct the shortcoming. Be Bold. Edit the article content.
  5. Loop until bored.

Note that there is absolutely no provision for getting into arguments with other editors. For those who absolutely must escalate:

  1. Call up a recently edited article from your watchlist.
  2. Check edit for shortcomings.
  3. If the new edit is okay, loop.
  4. If the new edit can be improved, do so and loop.
  5. If the new edit directly contradicts your previous edit, do not re-edit the article; talk on talk; loop.

And for those who just cannot stand idly by while the world burns:

  1. Call up a talk page from your watchlist.
  2. Check the current version of the corresponding article to see if your comments have had the desired influence.
  3. If so, leave a nice thank-you on talk; loop.
  4. If not, put a huge, full page width colored box on the talk page alerting editors that you are certain the world will burn if X is not done now; loop.

If you leave a nasty tag on the article itself, especially before attempting any other remedy, then I, for one, will simply consider you a lazy cheat and, quite possibly, a fool.

Xiongtalk* 20:53, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Rather than the so-called "cruft" holding back all the good editors, it tends to improve the editing of editors who aren't yet in that category.Botteville 20:04, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
In my experience the tags address informational vandalism. If the editor in need of more work sees that as tag vandalism he needs some serious self-reflection, but it is natural to resist criticism. Nevertheless it is a necessary evil and these tags are a system of criticism.Botteville 20:09, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Don't criticize. Fix it. See Let George Do It. — Xiongtalk* 20:55, 22 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

In my experience tags never address informational vandalism, but are there to defend an economical interest or a dearly-held belief or are there because of a hobby. There is a lot of "informational vandalism", but it is not marked by a template. Rather the users who are pasting templates are likely to be the same as are committing "informational vandalism". - Brya 06:57, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct. -Benjamin Disraeli (— Xiongtalk* 23:39, 10 March 2010 (UTC))Reply

Different kinds of tags

I think most tags have their use.

They enable a project to know which articles need work, for example.

But they deface articles, too.

So, let's divide them into two categories.

  1. tags which are interesting to the reader
  2. tags which are only useful for editors

Kind 1 includes tags which say "take care when reading this article". Kind 2 includes tags which say what work needs to be done (formatting, removing useless sections, putting into a better category, and so on)

Both have their use. I disagree with the "graffiti" comparison. They can be used to improve an article.

There is no need to display kind #2 to readers.

But this can be achieved by simply changing the appearance of these templates. They could all go to a very small unobtrusive box in a corner, which an editor can chose to click to open details. And of course the re-styled tags would still add hidden categories.

This way the reader has a better article to read, and isn't bothered by wiki-details.

The editor has a help in finding and correcting issues for an article.

And if someone adds tags just to deface... well, they will be almost invisible!

--Lou Crazy 00:35, 23 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

  • "The project" is not a sentient entity. The statement in question muddies the water by obscuring what might be meant.
  • Tags are never interesting to readers. Readers, by and large, want to know answers to questions, such as, "What is the capital of Kansas?" They don't want to know anything at all about our internal politics.
  • More advanced readers have their own criteria for evaluating the worth of an article. If they lack confidence in Wikipedia's ability to deliver reliable content, they will not place greater confidence in big colored boxes.
  • Tags are never useful to editors. Editors need to examine articles, research their subjects, and edit articles that they are able to improve. Tags don't help; they merely pretend to do so.
  • Tags never improve an article. At best, they merely are ugly and contentious. In some minds, they create the illusion of improvement, which is never helpful.
Once again, I'm going to explain this -- shortly.
Tag boosters suffer from an error which might politely be described as fallacy of location; less generously as delusions of grandeur.
An article contains, at any given moment, the combined wisdom of the entire editing community. Anyone who discovers a shortcoming may, very easily, correct it. Indeed, the nature of Wikipedia is such that the editing community is open: anyone can edit. Therefore, every article is the very best it can possibly be at the moment.
Every tag, no matter how worded, says in essence, "This article is wrong." Therefore, all of the people who edited the article and all the people who read the article but found no need (or ability) to edit it are wrong.
So, it is clear that all tag vandals suffer from the fantasy that they know better than everyone else. This is tiresome, silly, and nasty.
Please stop now. Thank you.
Xiongtalk* 02:22, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply
Well, Lou Crazy has a point to the extent that pasting templates is so popular that any attempt to eradicate them enirely is likely to fail. Talk pages are there for talking about the article, but in practice Talk-pages also are often choked by templates (announcing some Wikiproject or other or giving some kind of rating). a practical way forward might be to attach to each article not only a Talk page, but also a Template-page with all the templates that are now blocking the article or on the Talk page. - Brya 07:12, 26 October 2009 (UTC)Reply

Tags are useful to readers

When I open an article and I see some tag expressing an issue (especially controversy), I know to keep that in mind when I read. Obviously there are lots of little details that should be relegated to the talk page, but there are certain things that should be expressed on the main page. If I see the Expand or Update tags, for instance, I know that the article is likely missing some important information. That's very useful to me, and others.

That presumes that there is any connection between a tag and the issues that the article suffers from. This is either a religious belief ("tags are holy"), or a mark of naivety ("everything in Wikipedia is true, unless it is marked by a tag"). Tags are misleading. For example an "Expand" tag is attached because of the length of the article. A very short article may not be missing any information whatsoever, while a long, untagged article may be missing 90% of information. - Brya 08:27, 26 May 2011 (UTC)Reply