Is a template needed to add the description to a category?

+11 votes

Template:Hatnote has been created to add the description to category pages. The template has a second usage where it can be used to point to a disambiguation category.  This question is only about using it to add a category description. 

You add {{hatnote|This category is about the parish Kungsbacka in Halland County, Sweden}} which formats the text added in the parameter to produce: 

This category is about the parish Kungsbacka in Halland County, Sweden.

My opinion is that the use of a template to add a description to a category page adds unnecessary complexity and I can't see any advantages to be gained.

What are other people's thoughts? Does anyone see any advantages? Can we take a vote on it's use?

asked Feb 26, 2016 in Policy and Style by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 7 (77,860 points)
reopened Mar 13, 2016 by Michelle Hartley

Could you please expand on how this adds complexity? I'm on the fence here . . . I don't recall any pages where I would add a hatnote, but I also do not see how this "harms" our WikiTree.

Whether using using this template adds any advantages is within the eyes of the beholder {or more properly, the user}. Anyone who does not need the function it serves will gain no advantage, but for anyone on the other side of the fence the advantage may range from slight to great. Albert Einstein may have never needed a pocket calculator, but they've always been of great advantage to me!

Is this something that a "majority rules" vote should be determinate? If this template assists even .01% of the WikiTree users, whether they identify themselves and vote or not, would that be sufficient to justify the creation and use of it?

{again, I do not understand what complexity is involved here, if that could be explained (in layman's type of terms please!) it may become apparent why the disadvantages justify removing said complexities} :-)

Good comment John...

Feels a little bit like 1985 voting if Internet is good or bad. Please focus on explaining what you need and if possible write a user story....see examples

As we today have just a few categories its maybe no problem. We are in the Swedish SPC project creating 2500 categories ==> we will run into categories that could be difficult to understand. 

With the new category language concept the category names will be impossible to understand for someone seeing it the first time ==> we maybe need to clarify what the category is more language ==> 5000 pages...
Kila (D) --> Kila (D) (en)
Kila (S) --> Kila (S) (en)
Kila (U) --> Kila (U) (en)

ps. I have no pocket calculator

I hesitate to step in here and add to this because I really don't have time to invest in this conversation, but I don't think that everyone understands the concept that Magnus is proposing.

Using a template does not add complexity to a page.

It is simply a way of reusing information over and over again. If that information needs to change, you change it in one place, and all of the pages that are using that template are also automatically updated.

Magnus can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he was using this "hatnote" template as an example of how that can be done. 

It could be used to make the look and feel consistent for each category page that a project uses. Here's a simple example:

If you had a project called FRUIT, and you wanted to have a category page for each type of fruit, you could create a template that looked something like this:

{FruitCategory | color | shape nutritional value}

For the Apple category page, your template would be entered like this:

{FruitCategory | red | round | Vitamin C = 100%}

The template could spit out something like this:

This page is about apples. They are red and round and provide 100% of Vitamin C.

It's important to eat fruits high in Vitamin C ... blah blah blah

If you were looking for other round fruits, click here.

If you would like to buy apples, contact

For the Orange category, you would have:

{FruitCategory | orange | round | Vitamin C = 100%}

The text could spit out this:

This page is about oranges. They are orange and round and provide 100% of Vitamin C.

It's important to eat fruits high in Vitamin C ... blah blah blah

If you were looking for other round fruits, click here.

If you would like to buy oranges, contact


The basic text in the above paragraphs is contained within the definition of the template, and the variables (in bold) are supplied when the template is used on a specific category page. The variables are added between the pipes ("|") and would be different for each Category page. The email address is the contact info for the Fruit project leader, and if that leader changes, you change that email address on the template, and it's automatically changed wherever this template is used.

You can think of it as a way of adding a "header" (a.k.a. "hatnote") to each page in a project, or it could be used to place an infobox on a category page like the Swedish one that Magnus showed below. The same template could be used for other countries by replacing the link to the Swedish flag w/ a link to that country's flag as well as links to that other country's project information.

It might seem complex on the surface, but it actually simplifies things.

Yes Julie a hatnote is just so we get the same design and concept on all pages we have identified have a need for a hatnote....

A hatnote is not more magic than a footnote.... everyone who has read a book knows where to search for them. We would like to have the same design of all footnotes....

Most people dont know the name hatnote but if you design a web you know hatnote, breadcrumbFatFooter etc. its design patterns.... ;-) 


Another example of the usage of a Template. 

Today I found a great english explanation of the Swedish National Archive in a PDF  ==> I would like to add that to every link to NAD as a help for people to understand what the Swedish National Archive does ==>

1 change in a template ==> 100 pages using the template updated



This question is very specifically about using the hatnote template to add a description to a category page.

The first parameter of the hatnote template is the category description and its content is not altered in anyway by the template, only the way the description is formatted is affected.  

So this is not about a case where the information is used over and over again.  For example, "This category is about the parish Kungsbacka in Halland County, Sweden." is specific to that category and would never be reused.


is today 2016-mar-13 a rough Draft... 

You close this topic referencing to a draft 

Suggestion change status to Decided on the document..... otherwise this get even more confusing..... 

When that is done then I suggest please 

  1. delete Template:Hatnote or create a new version that does nothing with a comment why and by whom....

And if this change process is not documented please document the process so everyone understand....


Comment on 
""This category is about the parish Kungsbacka in Halland County, Sweden." is specific to that category and would never be reused."

Maryanne you use the template approach to get a consistent layout that is easy to change... 

Compare Template:Red ==> makes text red ;-) ==> the layout telling the text to be red is reused  

Today red in Template:Red is defined as color:#b60000 

Who will be suprised if we on G2G get a discussion if this red is red enough? Is it the red of love or warning? ;-) Maybe we need both? {{Template:Red|Love}} {{Template:Red|Hate}} {{Template:Red|Warning}}  {{Template:Red|Zigzag Street}} 

By having the red definition in the template its easy to change to a more Red that signal love and not hate......


Basic web design is that you separate layout and content ==> the layout of the hatnote is in the template and the content is in the parameter..... (using CSS classes)

My understanding today with a lot of inline CSS in templates at Wikitree and no CCS classes on the server is that Wikitree has no style guidelines....what I have seen is just Chris telling people not to use inline CSS which people still do?!?!?!

I reopened the question because the template guidelines are still in the draft stage.

How are other genealogy wikis using hatnote/disambiguation?

See Family Search


Magnus this discussion is not about using a template for disambiguation. It's about using a template to format the text added to a category to describe that category.   

However, I had a good look around FamilySearch's website this morning.  What I noticed:

  • None of the category pages uses a template to format its description.
  • None of the category pages I looked at had a description of more than one sentence.
  • Some of the category pages also add a link to a main article by using a template.
  • Categories are used to group subcategories and articles and contain no information about the topic. The linked articles contain information related to the topic.
  • Disambiguation pages are not category pages, they are in the main namespace - see Delaware (disambiguation).
  • the template {{Geodis}} is used to disambiguate between articles, not categories, that have the same place-name.
  • Template Hatnote: Category-specific templates: none are used to format category descriptions.
  • Category redirects - ... #REDIRECT should not be added to category pages.
  • What to put in the category page:  
    1. A description of the category -- what it should and should not contain.
    2. A note about how you arrived at the category's name
  • A navigation template or navbox is a grouping of links used in multiple related articles to facilitate navigation between those articles.

Comment to Maryann 

See my blog for some comments G2G had problems with too many characters ;-) 

Summary: my advice is 

  1. steal what is good at Family Search
  2. link from Wikitree categories to Family Search if we should have links on categories
  3. Family Search has an infrastructure with 
    1. an updated Wikimedia engine
      1. Upgraded better search with search suggestions
    2. an organisation that deliver good genealogy information
    3. have a meeting structure

      so why not use them and/or join them....
  4. Wiki Template development is today 2016 not on the prio list at Wikitree... 
    1. ==> more advanced pages should not/can not be created...


5 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer

Middle-of-the-road opinion here.

Because I am a veteran of Wikipedia editing, I am familiar with hatnotes as used at Wikipedia. Therefore, I know that they can be an easy and efficient tool for adding descriptions to pages (Wikipedia uses them for disambiguation notices) and could also be helpful for WikiTree categories. I also know that most WikiTree contributors have no interest in creating or editing categories, so a tool for editing categories would be used by a relatively limited fraction of WikiTree contributors.

On the other hand, because I am a veteran of Wikipedia, I know that when a Wiki embraces a lot of wonderful technical bells and whistles, it can end up alienating the majority of potential contributors. The English Wikipedia has generated a lot of good content in spite of the fact that its army of editors is disproportionately extremely young and extremely male. However, that's not a good model for a genealogy website, which needs to be accessible to a contributor base whose demographic is very unlike (in particular, a lot older than) the Wikipedia demographic. WikiTree can't emulate that. And even though I say that hatnotes can be easy and efficient, I also know that Wikipedia evolved some intricate hatnote syntax that would definitely alienate a lot of good contributors I've met at WikiTree. I recall spending too much time pouring over Wikipedia documentation to find the details of the syntax for a particular hatnote format that I needed to use.

So my middle-of-the-road view is that it would be OK to use a hatnote template to add simple descriptions to categories, but use of the template should not be treated as mandatory, and the syntax must be kept super-simple. (The example offered on the page of "{FruitCategory | color | shape nutritional value}" is not sufficiently simple. The syntax should be limited to no more than two parameters.)

answered Mar 13, 2016 by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (563,900 points)
selected Sep 3, 2016 by Magnus Sälgö

I also know that most WikiTree contributors have no interest in creating or editing categories, so a tool for editing categories would be used by a relatively limited fraction of WikiTree contributors.

This is an excellent point, Ellen. I don't see the average Wikitreer creating and maintaining category pages, either. And, yes, the example I used above was simply to explain the concept, and any necessary templates could be designed to be much simpler. :-)

Good point....

If you have 5 categories in English and then its not a big deal....

When we get 100 000 categories in 40 different languages then you will run into problems..... or when you have a city category and the city/area has more names in different languages..... how to explain that in a nice consistent way?!?!? 

Template:Red maybe will fix it ;-) 

What a great answer Ellen
+15 votes
I vote against using Template:Hatnote to add descriptions to category pages.
answered Feb 26, 2016 by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 7 (77,860 points)
I would agree that it adds unnecessary complexity.  I wondered what a "hatnote" is and see that it's purpose is to assure you that you've landed on the right page.  I would think that the category title itself would accomplish that.

I do think there is a minimum of information that should be at the top of each category page -- (1) what it's a subcategory of, (2) what the subcategories are under it,  (3) the purpose of having such a category and (4) what profiles the category designation should be placed on.  Above and beyond that added information of interest.  Flexibility is important;  some categories will have little information and others work well with a lot.

A category currently can't have a category manager, but it would be good if the information included (5) the names/Wiki ID of key people associated with the category, who can be turned to for more information about it.

"but it would be good if the information included (5) the names/Wiki ID of key people associated with the category, who can be turned to for more information about it."

I agree we solved that on every page we create we include a free space page with that information 

{{Space:SPC_Header}} ==> used in those pages

Its one place to update that information if the project is changing information. 

Today we have about 1800 categories. If we should start support languages like (en) (sv) (da) then it will be about 5000 categories to maintain..... ==> you create your pages to make them easy to maintain and track...

The first draft of an infobox to explain who created a category and where do you ask questions


I would think that the category title itself would accomplish that ==> then you dont use it....

And if you realize some people have problem landing on a page then you can use it...... 

One key success factor doing good web solution is to track how user use a page you can never guess. Today we have a counter at the bottom of a page.... Maybe Chris has better tools....


I don't understand why we need a free space page associated with categories unless the content associated with the category is unusually long.  Category pages accomodate a quite reasonable amount of text information.  If you want to associate with a category

* Two sentences regarding what the category is about

* Recommendations about which profiles should be associated with the category

*  A listing of WikiTree members with a particular interest in the category

*  Even a couple of paragraphs about the history of the place or event being categorized, that can go at the top of the category.  

Putting this on a separate free space page simply hides it from the viewer who really should get  this information or makes the viewer jump through extra hoops to get to it.  The only thing I can see that moving the material to a separate free space profile accomplishes is let the viewer get slightly more quickly to the list of profiles at the bottom of the category page -- and without the content information at the top, those profiles are more likely to be wrong.

Rather than a template, I do think it would be useful to develop a list of recommended contents at the top of the category page -- with a strong emphasis that this is a recommendation, not a mandate.


Good point Jack I also would like some user stories this is what we want to see....

Regarding Free space pages I think its an easy way to reuse common info
see Video about the SPC_Header we have it today on 1600 pages... and we have 22 county Free space pages that have common information for a county included on parishes in that county..

Sometimes it makes life easier for an user to have everything on the page sometime its good click and jump to another page.... and sometimes other solutions are better....

–9 votes
I vote for using Template:Hatnote to add descriptions to category pages.
answered Feb 26, 2016 by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 7 (77,860 points)
+2 votes

You use it when you need..... ;-)
You cant have a generic rule?!?!?!

If all Wikitree category names you will ever create are easy to understand and no problems then you never use them....

If all Wikitree category names you ever visit are easy to understand and no problems then you never use it....

In the SPC project I think we have a name standard that works good for people experts in Swedish Genealogy but not someone trying to find the roots the first time. And some parishes use the same names.... then you need a clarification...

I have the same problem adding cemetery categories in the states its a lot of Googling before you are sure you are in the right county etc. I need maps and better information.....

answered Feb 26, 2016 by Magnus Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (237,570 points)
edited Feb 26, 2016 by Magnus Sälgö

adds unnecessary complexity and I can't see any advantages to be gained.

A hatnote has a different formating to make it easier for the user to find it

Thats one reason for using a template. Properties of a hatnote

  1. Its at the top of the page
  2. use italic
  3. padding-left: 1.6em ==> space left 
  4. margin-bottom: 0.5em; => hanging a little bit by itself to easy and fast get focus
My suggestion is that we have a server based common.css file that contains a css class see Category:Template_CSS

adds unnecessary complexity and I can't see any advantages to be gained.

Try the Viki Iphone application they use Wiki text and add navigation using your current position etc....

  1. As Wikitree is based on the Wiki engine
  2. As Wikitree has profiles of people who has a lot of activities that took place at a specific position

Then an Iphone app would be a magic application to find all wikitree profiles/activities that took place at the place you are right now.....


Screen dump. Think if we geotagged the wikiprofiles all activities and you got on the phone all houses etc... that people has lived in....

I have played around with external Google maps and its great....


If you check the page about Alvik it has a "hatnote" like

{{for|the location in [[Luleå Municipality]]|Alvik, Luleå Municipality}}

==> the Iphone application that this page has related info ==> you can format this linking in a way that works good on a Iphone.....

+2 votes

Thanks for your responses.  

The proposed Template Guidelines recently published by Chris Whitten say Content templates are not approved use of templates on WikiTree, and the only Formatting templates currently approved for use are those for changing the color of text or formatting an image.

Therefore, the hatnote template is not an approved use of a template on category pages.

You can comment on these template guidelines here.

answered Mar 5, 2016 by Maryann Hurt G2G6 Mach 7 (77,860 points)

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