Proposal talk:Insist on metric units

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Automatic conversion

Why not use automatic unit conversion? System of measurement can be chosen automatically based on user choice, language and GeoIP for example. And some new markup tags can be used on wiki pages)? Implementing another markup tag and unit converter should not be a difficult task. --Azazar 12:39, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Use of markup is an interesting approach and one I think worth considering/debating here. In using such a system, one could still provide metric by default, whether singly or alongside the locale units (which would still need to be decided as a policy).
However, I think even this would be a variant of Postel's Law: by seemingly doing a favor in being tolerant of what we allow (or create), we create additional burdens on implementers (editors) and users:
  1. those who have to add or maintain markup
  2. those editors and users who never get weaned off of a non-standard system into one which will give them direct access to express in standard units or understand when they are used (and vice versa)
  3. if GeoIP/language is used, on those who must switch the GeoIP/language-default to be able to use or exclusively use the standard
And if we allow editors to express their units in non-standard units, it would encourage such imperfections as:
  1. unfair burdens on editors only familiar with the standard (the software could auto-convert, but the original would likely still be maintained in such a system to ensure the editor's exact intention was preserved, no?)
  2. challenges in determining mark-up for approximations: (e.g., "The artifact is said to have been hundreds of feet long" could not be as easily marked up to lead to "tens of metres long", and even if it were, it requires editors to learn yet more mark-up).
  3. unclean conversions: (e.g., if an editor added "about <measure unit='feet'>15</measure>", this would awkwardly show up as "about 4.572 metres" in a strictly auto-converting system, whereas if they were required to be made familiar with metric, they would know to say from the beginning "about 5 metres" or "about 4.5 metres"; automated systems wouldn't know to reduce precision without yet more markup)
If there is some other tangible benefit to having the markup tagged (as for the Data Web?), at least the added burden on editors could be more justified (though a system can be envisioned where markup could still be required where input and output were restricted to metric), but I really think the purpose of standards is to provide the full convenience and independence from need for hacks, however beneficial. It's like with having a common language: automated translation is a welcome tool in the absence of such a solution, but it can't compare to the long-term convenience, savings, and efficiency/precision in having a solid policy in place which allows the overhead to be unnecessary in the first place. Brettz9 02:35, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
I don't think Americans can be convinced to use only metric units in articles, especially for things that are known to Americans for their customary measurements. But I'm in favor of ensuring that metric units are provided alongside the customary ones. I've done some conversions manually. Both systems will be used anyway, so why not have them converted automatically? I know, it is a little technical. Perhaps we could use simple links, like the ones used so that dates can be formatted. For example, [[32 feet]]. I like the idea of automatic conversion so that those who prefer the metric system can see all units in metric. We should be able to choose our preferred system of measurement. -- 05:23, 18 October 2009 (UTC)
For one, I think Americans can be convinced; many intelligent people in America (esp. the kind of people who would be editing articles) support metric units, and with the seemingly more popular proposal to show American customary units (i.e., British-derived ones) secondary to metric, there would hardly be any pain at all for viewers. Metric is already supposed to be provided alongside customary ones in most cases, but I believe it is only fair to others (and beneficial for Americans in the future) to at least use metric both within the editing of articles and as the default (as through the convert template: e.g., {{convert|2.3|m}},), except in certain (mostly American) cultural articles (Wikipedia can, since it currently does, make exceptions for culture-specific articles).
This is already close to the existing policy, but it is pushing along the official open standard by endorsing it as the primary rather than co-equal standard--just as Wikimedia did with insisting on Ogg-Theora media (which was and still is far less along than metric is as a standard in the world, and also can lead to a single point of failure for those many people without it, unlike for those with a lack of knowledge of the metric system). Wikipedia has led the way in doing the right thing in the past, and changing the outside world as a result (see how Firefox now supports Ogg Theora natively); it's well past time that some shift toward metric takes place here, if not for such potential, then at least for fairness to the majority of the world (including English speakers) currently using metric. --Brettz9 16:20, 18 October 2009 (UTC)
I was not aware of the convert template. Thanks for pointing that out. I will use it in articles when I find customary units only. And I won't convert units that are already in metric only. -- 04:56, 19 October 2009 (UTC)


Not our task

Metric units are imposed by the law, not by Wikipedia. Please wait for EU to oblige UK to use modern metric units and wait for USA to follow. It's not our fault if those two countries use absurd metric unites. --Nemo 21:43, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

I mentioned that effect only as a potential side benefit. My point is that Wikimedia can settle on a standard for the sake of simplifying its own work. Wikimedia has adopted other standards and conventions--why not this one? The idea of adopting a standard is to "impose", but it is an imposition with benefits. Brettz9 11:35, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

I agree

This would be a very cool idea. I think it is a very "soft" way to get countries not used to metric more receptive to it - it helps them learn about it without hurting business through new laws and regulations. I think wikipedia could be a great boon here in educating countries' residents about the international standard and giving a real sense of international fellowship and camaraderie. I'm all for it. Sounds like it would have some very practical immediate uses, and some very cool effects. -Lyc. cooperi 10:11, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

would devalue wikipedia in the US/unit templates

can we also change all currency units to euros?

Politically speaking, we're quite a ways from a world currency, even though the financial crisis has pushed that idea forward and though it would also be in our eventual best interest. Maybe one could make an argument for gold, but I don't think that will fly. The dollar still is the top international reserve currency, so my thought is that it makes sense to use it for now. I don't have a strong opinion on this one except that it would be good if there were a standard currency we could use. For now, I think it should be the dollar as, like metric, it is the de facto international currency (at least for now). Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
sorry....i was trying to be funny here, i'm not really advocating this :) 10:55, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
But it is a very relevant issue. Maybe a template, borrowing on your other template like: {{currency units=USD|quant=200}}, or to use the USD default (which I see now is indeed the official Wikipedia default) for now across all locales (which could be auto-converted in the future), just {{currency quant=200}}. In order to adjust for inflation into the future, etc. (this would be extremely useful), an attribute for the approximate date of validity would also be helpful: {{currency date=2009|quant=200}}. Such tagging would really be fairly future-proof (needing only some rate tables to make conversions) and fit in well with the concept of the "Data web"/Linked Data promoted by Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the Web. If there is a world currency in the future, the tags can easily be converted with such a system, as it can work well with converting into other locales for now (something which is more important for currencies than for other units of measure since there is no uncontestable candidate for currency at the moment). So, for now it seems USD has already been chosen, but I think a template could be useful for things like future convertability and adjusting for inflation. --Brettz9 09:56, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

all words to esparanto?

As far as language, I personally think we should have such standards in the world too, but that really would depend on one language effectively conquering the world (English hasn't, at least not yet, and Esperanto hasn't been voted on globally, at least not yet, nor adopted widely enough) nor has there been a global vote to establish such an official secondary language (whether Esperanto--or English for that matter--or whatever could get consensus to work as an official world auxiliary language to be taught in schools around the world)
So, for now, separate language sites are necessary because: 1) We don't have an official world auxiliary language yet, and, 2) For those many people who don't know a lingua franca like English, the information in the site is wholly inaccessible without an inordinate amount of work. So, my appeal is again, for 1) Only metric to be used, and 2) If there are not enough votes or support to make this change, then to at least require metric to go along with non-metric and let metric be the main standard (e.g., converting in most cases from metric approximations to British imperial units used in the U.S. and not the other way around; it does make a difference both for editing and for viewing as I indicated in other examples given earlier). Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Maybe English would be the official auxiliary language if it wasn't so awkward and illogical. It's really a shame. But enough on that. -- 05:03, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

no. wikipedia is different for different locales.

what i WOULD support is using templates for measurements. then localize the units on the fly, so if a user is in the US it prints out "3 feet (1 m)" or if in France it prints out "1 m (3 feet)".User talk:

I think for me, the difference is metric is used much all over the world, not just in europe. It's the most popular measurement system in use;
Yes, and the metric system is not even just popular around the world--it is effectively used EVERYWHERE. For certain units, countries like England or China may have slight exceptions, but the U.S. is pretty much the only nearly universal intransigent holdout (Liberia and Myanmar, the only other historic holdouts, are, per Wikipedia, are already fairly metricized). Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
wikipedia would support many more locales and be understandable by many more people by switching to metric. But what you say is true, doing so might turn off Americans.
Well, I'm an American, and I even made the proposal. :) Let's see what more people say, including more Americans, because there are very good reasons which would benefit us as Americans as well as others by standardizing on THE already well-established system. But if there really isn't enough support, we can still require that things at least be in metric, with optional conversion (in English only) to British imperial units as used still in the U.S. Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
So I definitely support this idea of localizing on the fly, but if that's technically unfeasible, I think there should be some kind of vote about standardizing to metric. It's a fairly straightforward issue, so I think a vote would work. --Lyc. cooperi 18:47, 3 October 2009 (UTC)
people in the US *really* don't know metric, even people that work in fields that use metric units couldn't tell you how tall they are in centimeters, they'd say "somewhere between 1.5 and you have a calculator i can borrow?".
I think that's the problem that we really don't know metric in the U.S.. It gives us more reason to learn it. If we can learn how to make Google searches for vocabulary we don't know, we can learn to progressively figure out metric units. Other countries have done things like switch their driving to the other side of the road, change their units of measure, etc.--changing Wikipedia's units is not going to make Wikipedia unintelligible even to people too lazy to learn a useful and effectively universal standard. We can adapt. Our Congress thought so in 1976 when they voted on going metric (though admittedly they didn't have the foresight or guts or whatever to make the transition compulsory). We Americans are not any less intelligent or capable of adapting than anyone else. We might appreciate science more as a result too--something which we definitely could use. Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
there are other countries that speak english, including india, but my sense is the majority of english contributors and readers other thatn people from countries were english isn't even the 1st language, are americans. and i think this is sort of counter to many of wikipedia's aims. i mean, we may as well dictate how the world operates for other parameters too, like get rid of the less popular wikis and tell people to just read english.
but, go ahead with the vote and see how it turns out. i've said elsewhere, i'm not sure how these pages have control over en.wikipedia, if we vote here can we overrule the entire en.wikipedia community's will?
Yeah, by all means, if there is a vote, it should be a debate on the larger en.wikipedia, not here. :D --Lyc. cooperi 22:36, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Sure, but where? I understood that this would be the place (since it encompasses all Wikimedia sites and I didn't think policy was formally debated at Wikipedia).
Maybe for a big change, they can announce it prominently at Wikipedia, but this site is intended for such plans and proposals. Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
an on-the-fly system could be used for other things too, like, converting between currencies, adjusting older currencies to modern values via inflation
That would be very cool. Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
so i thought about this a little more. localize on the fly based on deducing the users location can work but another way to do it is have a "" to separate out american peculiarities. this would use ALL the same content as the others but also do things like choose the US spelling where appropriate, e.g. the edit war of Aluminium vs Aluminum.
I guess you mean an automatic conversion only? But how would it be represented in the edit boxes? As metric, but converted optionally for Americans? If metric-only doesn't get support, I'd favor that. But if you mean a "en-US" subdomain which was not just an automatic conversion of the "en" domain, but a whole independent locale, while being a technically correct approach, it would have an awful effect of forking Wikipedia for no good reason--depriving (or at least massively complicating) each community of the insights of the other in editing and reading. Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
I was thinking we'd use templates, saying something like {{distance units=m|quant=3}} to indicate 3 meters. in the us-en wikipedia this would render as "9 feet (3m)", in the just en wikipedia it would render as "3m (9 feet)" (since some people will undoubtedly go to en instead of us-en
But you mean that "en-US" would not be an independent domain, right? It would use the same content as "en", but the locale information would be displayed differently, right? This is a better idea than wholly independent locales (whose content could fork), but I think it introduces unnecessary complexity, including for automated tools understanding, for example, that a link to "" is essentially the same as one to "".
But templates could still work to accommodate different locales without needing a separate "en-US" domain; with templates being in the form "metric (US)" (e.g., "3m (9 feet)") by default (unless there is agreement, as I hope, that only metric be shown by default), and at least as an option if not requirement, for metric only (the latter should I think be made the case in all other locales except perhaps Burmese). But keep in mind that, unlike currency (where we would want to adjust for inflation, for example, thereby justifying the added work of templates), there is an added burden for adding templates for units which would not be required if we simply required metric across the board. So when discussing the disadvantage of the proposal, I think it should be kept in mind that the "metric only" approach does not have the same level of burdens of using templates; once people learn metric, there is no need for the added work of templates--unless, that is, you wanted to argue that units of measure should themselves be part of the Data Web, allowing one to search Wikipedia, for example, for all pages mentioning units in the range of 10-100 nanometres.
I see now that covers the topic, but it allows the convention to vary by page--something I don't think is ideal; I believe it should always be metric as the default. Btw, I see Category:Conversion_templates has some templates already that could be used for conversions (though again, I think such units should emphasize metric at least as the default and they should be used universally if they are going to be adopted). --Brettz9 09:56, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
i would actually do some of the technical work myself but am so burnt out on wikipedia and a little distrustful of the place. as a newer user i was harassed by a the cabal and eventually gave up on the place. 22:32, 3 October 2009 (UTC)
Hope you don't give up--it's good to have numerous voices as we all should appreciate... Brettz9 08:52, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
thanks for the encouragement -- if more wiki was like this it would be a nicer place. what are your thoughts about impact? this could make anything numeric more accessible, but its not gonna be earth-shattering 11:24, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
The benefits would be very large if it could lead to enhancing communication and dropping the added burden of translating between units; this is really why I favor metric only. At the very least though, ensuring metric is always used as one of the units (as pretty much per the existing policy), but imo, it should go further than this and always be the default, and better still, the only unit. I think that the impact cannot be measured in isolation from the wider society (as with policy on living persons at Wikipedia found itself in the news), and adhering to metric only could have large long-term benefits for trade, communication, and even scientific progress in the wider world (appreciation of units is important, and failure to instruct in the metric standard hampers American's understanding of these units). But, as far as the impact on Wikipedia in isolation, using metric only would simplify things for editors, while using metric by default (only auto-converting optionally to other units) could be a transitional step toward metric only and streamline things for those familiar with metric only (they wouldn't have to know both units). --Brettz9 09:56, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

other localizations: dates (mm-dd-yyyy vs dd-mm-yyyy), years, ??? software has been written to do many localizations, wiki just haven't been using it.

Ah, yes, good point. ISO-8601 uses YYYY-MM-DD. However, there's nothing to preclude using dates in the format "May 23, 1844", unless for the sake of the Data Web (e.g., to find all articles mentioning a given date in a predictable fashion), we wanted to use templates here too (or insist that all dates have wiki links, which would similarly make dates intelligible). I see now that conventions are covered at .
As far as the issues at the helpful Internationalization article you point out, I think two other issues stand out as candidates for standardization: Numerals and spelling.
Spelling is already covered (see for the existing rules), though I personally feel we'd be better served by settling on a standard (though I personally find the British spelling more cumbersome, it could really simplify things if we did stick to the original standard).
Numbers are covered at . Templates could be helpful here in some ways, but the added work for numbers (at least in isolation from other units) would I think hardly be worth it. The person who wants to find all articles mentioning the number 7, could just search for "7" and "seven"--I can't think of a really compelling reason to go to the trouble of templates just for numbers in isolation. --Brettz9 09:56, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

NASCAR and metric don't mix

There are plenty of NASCAR articles on English Wikipedia that either have only American units (e.g., miles) or a combination of American units and metric. If the NASCAR articles were forced to only have metric in their articles, it would alienate the majority of NASCAR fans. Speed and distance has always been done in miles (except for a few races) and Bill Elliot's speed record is 215 miles per hour (and that is how it be recorded in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in addition to English Wikipedia). GVnayR 16:04, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes, that is a good example in favor of keeping the locale information for culture-specific articles. However, this wouldn't preclude requiring, as I'm proposing, that the units always be available in metric, and be foremost in metric (e.g., "96 m/s (215 mph)") nor preclude other non-culture-specific articles from exclusively using metric. I strongly believe metric should always be added and added as the default--because 1) not only Americans want to learn about NASCAR, 2) It helps us get used to the standard being used around the world in science and business and become aware that we are lagging behind in adopting it, and 3) future Americans, when our public and leaders embrace the changes needed for long-term facilitated trade and relations, will also be grateful to have this information. --Brettz9 20:23, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
If foreigners want to learn about NASCAR, they should use the American units that Bill France intended to have, not this metric system that Formula One uses. Even the IndyCar Racing League uses miles per hour and they race in Australia and Canada. When the NASCAR boys race at Gilles Villenuve, they always use miles per hour. When drag cars face off against each other at a Canadian dragway, they always use miles per hour. If metric has to be added when describing something related to NASCAR to a foreign, it should come second because NASCAR is not about using metric. GVnayR 02:30, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
'Foreigners'? Wow GVnayR you do have an odd sense of who is a 'foreigner' on the world wide web and Wikipedia. And quite frankly as an American I am insulted.BeholdersEye 24:30, 4 Feb 2010 (UTC)
Fair enough, so in Nascar articles and other measurements and practices which make a point of using a specific metric or term (for example a "40oz" being the name of a kind of alcohol bottle.) then it should obviously be kept. --Lyc. cooperi 05:04, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
Yes, for describing items that are still expressed in such units, of course. But for information of general interest, the existing policy at Wikipedia is already to dual express in metric. Brettz9 06:10, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
No, NASCAR is not about using metric (nor do I hardly think its focus is about not using metric!), but much of the world here at Wikipedia (including many in the English locale) is about using metric. And Wikipedia is ostensibly for all of the world. If there is an article about Chinese goods measured in "jin" or Burmese items measured in peikthas, or whatever, there needs to be a more universal standard employed--it is a burden to those who have implemented a standard used around the world to have to learn other units (as it is a burden on our country in the U.S. to not implement the standard our Congress favored switching to back in the 70s); there is a standard, the metric system; after that can be in some cases optional locale-specific information (the policy at Wikipedia is already to be at least expressed in metric, but in my view, it should go farther and be required as the default in most cases). While it is fine to mention these units if there is a compelling reason (and I agree that there is one here), they should not, in my opinion, particularly on the non-country-specific articles, be the major unit.
As far as Bill France, as an apparent immigrant from North Ireland, I'm not sure he'd have had something against metric units, and in any case, I hardly think anyone really cares what units are being used on the cars (I hardly see my fellow Americans defending British imperial units for patriotic reasons)--except admittedly for the workers who'd have to make the transition as those in other countries did before them; however, this is not to determine the policy at NASCAR or the U.S.--the NASCAR article doesn't belong to NASCAR; this is a proposed policy for the various users around the world using Wikipedia.
The good Americans I know believe in democracy, even in their relations with fair-minded people from other countries, and they recognize the benefits of making compromises which will make things easier for themselves as well as others in the long run. I expect intellectual Wikipedian contributors to understand this even more. But in the case of a country-specific article like NASCAR, I agree locale-specific units should be allowed and even predominant for now (I'll admit I went a little overboard with that argument in this case--if they record the stats in mph, we should put metric in parentheses). But for non-country-specific articles, the articles should, in my opinion, be metric first or metric only. Brettz9 06:10, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
Even if America does go metric someday, there will be opposition to it like everything else. NASCAR will always use miles and miles per hour. GVnayR 03:57, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Debate is great; our Union was founded on the states debating whether to join the union; but I think it'd be awfully hard for anyone to argue now that it was a mistake for them joining such a wider union.
As far as NASCAR, I wouldn't be quite so sure about it being always even if it looks that way now. Italians no doubt thought the lira would be around forever. Americans at the time of the Monroe Doctrine, before entrance into either of the World Wars, or those attacking nation-building fairly recently, etc., could not have imagined how involved in the world we already are and it is only increasing, however resistant to it some may be. As I said, Congress in 1976 envisioned our implementing the metric system, so it's not unimaginable that it could be required by law in the future for businesses to use metric. But for now, I agree we should use the units that people are using for such local or national events. --Brettz9 01:34, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
This may be slightly unrelated to this issue, but I thought that VHS was going to last forever when I was 18 years old. Little did I know that I would finally fall in love with DVD sometime around 2005. Next thing you know, I started watching DVD movies in my spare time and left the VHS movies to special occasions. The moral of the story is: Americans will stick with their measurements until situations (i.e., the Singularity, nanotechnology, etc.) forces them to embrace the metric system. Believe me, everything related to nanotechnology will require America to switch to the metric system - but I find the American system of measurements intriguing (at least for the stock car races). GVnayR 03:10, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
Ok, cool, so I guess we agree to leave NASCAR alone. :) But my hope is that by requiring non-locale-specific to be in metric first on other pages, we can participate in moving us along in that direction you rightly mention is inevitable anyways. It would be a pretty powerful argument I think (not to mention an immediate practical impulse): Wikipedia emphasizes metric, so we students, educators, legislators, etc., have to get on the band-wagon. --Brettz9 05:24, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
Ok, 'Nascar and Metric don't mix' ? That that has to be the biggest farce I ever heard! Exactly what does not mix? American Egotism and World domination? That is the only thing that do not mix, nor does it draw the world any closer to America. Nascar, is only a damn sport, that has to do with speed, distance, fuel volume, energy force. Nascar is the perfect place to use Metric. American based Imperial System is Dead.BeholdersEye 24:30, 4 Feb 2010 (UTC)
Well, as interesting as the Daytona 804.672 sounds, I think I'll stick with the 500... Parsecboy 20:17, 5 May 2010 (UTC)

Make it an option

There are several elements of wikipedia where we could give users options so that when they are logged in they can choose whether to see things in metric or imperial units, AD or CE, or even the Julian v Jewish or Islamic calenders. Of course that doesn't work for people who use metric for some things and Imperial for others, but the people who care tend to want one or the other. It could even be added as a reason for creating an account. OK its going to be difficult where the measurements are coded into diagrams etc, but if we create the option most of the data is ready to be displayed either way - and if it isn't we can let those who care adapt it so it does convert. WereSpielChequers 09:49, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Yes, being optional (through templates) is a good idea, though again I believe the default in most cases should be metric (or metric first). That is a nice idea about the calendars too. Calendars are not quite as universal as metric (though variants of the Gregorian is used in many international standards). In any case, calendars are much more intertwined with culture or faith, so I think this is much more compelling to make available as locale information. --Brettz9 05:35, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

All this talk is wonderful. However, if you have ever tried to metricate articles on Wikipedia - I have, and I bear the scars from the conflicts - you will know that it will be fought all the way by the diehards for the old systems of measurement. That doesn't mean that nothing can be done. However it does mean that you must be prepared for the long haul.

Or, well should be left well alone. There's no reason to impose standardization for standardizations sake. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Parsecboy 20:16, 5 May 2010 (UTC)

I spent a long time trying to read through this whole thing, and eventually realised that there was a LOT of repetition arguements, so I hope I'm not repeating anything here. Basically I think the following would be a good way of going about it.

  • Create a template which can be used to convert automatically
  • Declare metric as the default system to be used
  • In articles where it is felt metric does not belong (e.g. Nascar), include the metric in parentheses.
  • In all other articles, allow the option of including the non-metric in parentheses.
  • Use common sense when it comes to phrases like "hundreds of feet long" - we all have brains! Use them!

Every rule has exceptions, as should one like this, but it could still be applied fairly uniformly without treading on too many toes or ruining any articles.

That's my 2 cents :) Geqo 05:12, 5 July 2010 (UTC)