Some key points: In-line sourcing does not mean only footnotes, and Wikitree footnotes are often very badly done. In many cases, Wikitree editors should be using quite different citation styles. Think about the AIMS of this project, and consider which style is best. Don't be too quick to assume an unfamiliar style is against some rule.
Background: the concern.
1. Many editors on Wikitree seem to misunderstand what is normally meant by the term "inline citation". This causes problems.
2. More generally, practical problems arise on Wikitree from the big range of conflicting ideas about what is allowed/not and what is good/bad in sourcing.
3. This can become particularly problematic in articles which require a bit of explanation about one or more of the facts, for example about why an old/common idea should now be considered wrong. But many profiles should have such explanations, because as genealogists we all know that misunderstandings spread around the internet. The only way to stop them being reinserted is to make the reasoning clear.
In fact, one of the reasons I work on Wikitree is that many editors here are making a worthy effort to add such explanations to profiles, and stop the viral cycle. But problems with these misunderstandings about sourcing rules constantly seem to get in the way. Hence this post.
I will therefore explain my understanding, based partly on how sourcing is judged outside of Wikitree, in order to fill in the gaps and give some perspective. (Good genealogy and good sourcing can not be something different on Wikitree.)
First, "inline citations" does not mean "footnotes". It means citations within the body of the text. Examples:
*Using footnotes: The father of Anselm was Walram of Berk.[footnote(s)] Publications from before 1950 often say his father was Walram of Brik.[footnote(s)] However in 1950 Prof Taylor demonstrated that a Royal charter of 1180 names Anselm's father clearly, and makes it clear that Walram of Brik was his cousin.[footnote(s)]
*Using parentheses and abbreviations: As noted by recent scholars such as Smith (in his "Knights" book, p.110) the father of Anselm was Walram of Berk. Publications from before Prof Taylor's 1950 "Barons" article, such as Complete Peerage (Vol. 10, p.300) often say his father was Walram of Brik. However in 1950 Taylor (p.135) demonstrated that a Lewes priory charter of 1180 (Salzman ed. nr 11) names Anselm's father clearly, and makes it clear that Walram of Brik was his cousin.
Obviously in the first style, there is potentially a lot of complexity being moved to the footnotes. Sometimes that makes sense. And in the second type of inline sourcing, although you keep the complexity mainly in the body, you at least need longer explanations somewhere about what "Knights", "Barons" and "Complete Peerage" are. There are many ways to do both these things. Many publications even create standard lists of short names for frequently used sources that apply to many books and journals in the same way.
This should be easy. Compared to the old book publishers, it is easier for us to be neat because we can also use wikilinks.
You can hopefully see why the second type of inline sourcing, which moves some information about sources into the main text, can sometimes be preferable, if the differences between past scholars are actually part of what we need/want to explain to readers and fellow editors, thus allowing them to follow properly.
The first type is of course fine when you have a simple sequence of statements which each need only one source each. But it quickly becomes clumsy when each statement requires a comparison of several sources to back it up, meaning that the footnotes can become bigger than the body text, and sometimes unreadable.
Bad example of how to handle such a case, as all too often found on Wikitree:
*The father of Anselm was Walram of Berk.[footnote] Alternatively it was Walram of Brik.[footnote] Alternatively the two Walrams were the same person.[footnote]
Hopefully it is obviously NOT good to try to explain a simple little story about the history of the topic in this even more simple way. Furthermore the above type of bad example generally hides very poor sources amassed in the footnotes, such as Wikipedia articles, an old Rootsweb pages, or non-scholarly books like Burkes. (Or, I often see footnotes which encompass a series of citations: Burkes as cited by Wikipedia as cited on someone's Geni page or whatever.)
So secondly, how can you judge if a style is good/bad in each case? It is normally judged according to at least 3 criteria, which are honestly not difficult to understand and use:
*Readability for as many types of readers as practical must be a major priority. Length and repetition. One very obvious (outside of Wikitree at least) aspect of this is that texts (both inline, and within footnotes) should not be longer than needed, and certainly should not contain blocks of texts which are repeated over and over again for no good reason. For example, creating a 100 word citation for a book, and then repeating it 20 times in order to cite different combinations of pages, is not good, and such formats are never used in publications.
*Transparency and "verifiability" is another major priority. This means that fellow editors will be able to understand what the original sources really said, preferably even what the primary records said. And if necessary, others should easily be able to go check them for themselves.
*An easily editable format is important for online collaborations such as Wikitree, because all our work should be possible to improve as easily as possible. This means very intricate sourcing formats which "break" when they are adjusted, are not good.
Too often on Wiktree the experienced editors (perhaps especially the experienced editors because they become insensitive to it) do not seem to think in terms of these 3 simple goals. In fact I have had discussions which confirm that some very experienced editors are quite comfortable to say these are NOT goals or priorities they want to follow.
Hopefully there are not too many people who think that way?