Should link templates be officially recommended? [closed]

+32 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

In the past we have discussed whether or not to approve the usage of "external link templates," i.e. templates that produce links to external websites.

There was no consensus. The question was left unresolved, and this has led to confusion, especially regarding the widely-used {{FindAGrave}} template.

I have drafted up a new proposal:

The way I've defined them here, link templates are a subcategory of formatting templates. They are intended to format links. They are not intended to format sources or transclude content.

Formatting is a generally approved usage of templates, but there aren't specific recommendations on the use of formatting templates. For example, we have formatting templates for turning text {{Red}} or {{Blue}} but we don't have style rules for when text should be colored.

We already have link formatting templates such as {{G2G}} for creating a link to this forum, and {{AncestryDNA}}, {{23andMe}}, and {{Family Tree DNA}} for creating links to those sites that pay WikiTree a commission if someone purchases a DNA test through them. These link templates could be used in profiles, but it's not specifically recommended.

Officially recommending link templates would mean they would become widely used. If you enter a plain text link, somebody else might change it. Not using them would never be "wrong" but using them would be the recommended way to enter links to sites that have link templates.

Why wouldn't we want to recommend link templates in profiles?

There is the general issue with all templates: they're confusing to new members. The wiki markup style for adding links is already confusing. Entering {{FindAGrave|19598}} is easier than entering [ Find A Grave Memorial #19598], but members would have to understand that the former produces the same result as the latter. That's added complexity.

There is also the issue of losing the link in non-WikiTree contexts, e.g. if a profile is imported elsewhere. {{FindAGrave|19598}} isn't as clear as [ Find A Grave Memorial #19598]. If the template is named well, most intelligent users could figure it out, though. And the current proposal is for templates to produce the links, not complete source citations.

What do you think of Help:Link Templates? Please post here if you have input.



P.S. Ales wanted me to mention that EditBot could help update existing link templates to conform to new style rules, and could help change conventional links to link templates. Changing our style rules doesn't mean any member needs to do more work. For those who would want to use them, Ales mentioned the possibility of creating a converter that would automatically give you the template code when you enter a URL. Lots of possibilities would be opened up by officially recommending link templates.

closed with the note: approved and moving forward
asked in Policy and Style by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
Can you please add the "data_doctors" tag to this? I only saw this post since it was linked in another I was following. Thanks!
Use of Editbot for existing templates would help with consistency. To have the full citation included with the template link is preferable.
Are you making this a vote in the future?

Chris, I am not sure I understand what you mean by this paragraph:

There is also the issue of losing the link in non-WikiTree contexts, e.g. if a profile is imported elsewhere. {{FindAGrave|19598}} isn't as clear as [ Find A Grave Memorial #19598]. If the template is named well, most intelligent users could figure it out, though. And the current proposal is for templates to produce the links, not complete source citations.

Do you mean that the template format may be lost in exported data, leaving us without a link to the relevant website; and/or that the template format may be lost when we upload (our exported gedcom) to another website, again leaving us without the link?

You should at least have what you see on the edit page: the RAW template, which is all you need to get to the correct page, it just won't necessarily be converted into a clickable link.  At least that's my take on it.  In any case, if there is something important to you on FaG save it locally because anything on someone else's server can disappear at their whim.
My question is from the viewpoint of someone not familiar with importing or exporting data, Mikey. I wanted clarification of whether the issue was related to gedcoms and/or some other method of importing data from one site or computer to another.

I feel this issue needs clarification so we can evaluate its relevance to the proposal.

Lindy, non-WikiTree contexts means that you export GEDCOM from wikitree, bio is exported in edit form like

 NOTE {{Languages|sl|en-3}}
2 CONT [[Category: Ljubljana, Slovenija]]
2 CONT [[Category: Slovene genealogists]]
2 CONT [[Category:WikiTree Leaders]]
2 CONT [[Category:WikiTree Team]]
2 CONT {{IsProfile|Test of #profile:BirthDateDecade:}}
2 CONT == Links ==
2 CONC My WikiTree LiveCasts with [[Gaulden-7|Mags]] and [[Fiscus-32|Julie]].

And in this case there would be no URL to the linked site.

Thanks, Aleš!

That's what I was wanting, clarification of whether the issue involved GEDCOMs (and/or other types of files), as well as a more technical explanation of nature of the issue.
Behind the scenes, does WikiTree have a "What Links Here" feature for the "Template:xxx" pages? That is a feature I have used extensively on other wikis where they show the usual left side bar you see on Wikipedia, etc.
It does, but it is hidden.

Leaders have this link available, since only they can edit the templates.

Some templates have that link also added to the template.

But you can always write
This post has only one down vote to 31 up votes. There doesn't seem to be much controversy about proceeding. The input mainly concerns the help page on how to use them (as yet unwritten) and how Ales proceeds with EditBot. So, I am closing this and making the policy official.

We will move forward with external link templates.

16 Answers

+15 votes

This looks great.

Not recommended as sources needs to be more obvious (especially FindAGrave).

For the less technical, perhaps describe what the anchor text is. Also note that the first text following the {{ is the first parameter; subsequent parameters, if any, are separated by the vertical bar | delimiter.
answered by Kay Sands G2G6 Pilot (199k points)

Not recommended as sources

I would change that to read

Link Templates are not Full Citations!

Then note that the template is part of a well-written citation; that it would be used only to replace the link in the citation.

I feel that points like this need better clarity within WikiTree's style guide!!

I think the Creation instructions are only for the Team.  Perhaps they should be moved to a separate page.

Not sure who the Style Rules are addressing, since ordinary users will be limited to the templates provided and won't have to worry about the justifications.
+19 votes
I have not been making use of this template, but I support this initiative.   I was reluctant because it was an unsettled issue.   it is cleaner, and I think most people can figure it out what the template means, though some good explanatory text will help newcomers.  I regard findagrave more as an informational courtesy rather than as a significant source except when there are images with useful data.
answered by Michael Maranda G2G6 Mach 6 (65k points)
Sometimes it's the only thing you can easily find, but I tend not to use it if it's a "burial unknown," especially if there is no other information on the memorial. Who knows where any of the information came from?

Currently I am phasing out the use of Findagrave for inline citations. If I haven't found a better source document to replace it, I use the template by itself for the inline citation and add a full citation (includes the template) under the subheading Other Resources or a citation from FamilySearch (again with the template included).

Findagrave is not a source document or a repository of source documents. It is a site like WikiTree, where we add the results of our research. My view is that we should classify the memorials as resources if we reference them here.

Like Michael, I include links to the Findagrave memorials mainly as a courtesy to those viewing the WikiTree profiles I edit, not as a source for the data on those profiles. Viewers who are familiar with Findagrave may wonder why that site is referenced and ask that it be linked; by being proactive, we avoid that unnecessary confusion.

Very good thoughts Michael and Linda, and so well expressed, thanks !
+20 votes

"Officially recommending link templates would mean they would become widely used."

Yes, and those who do not wish to use them will have an otherwise fine link to an outside page/source/whatever will see other well-meaning users make changes to their link, probably wiping out the information they have included. 

Just to play devil's advocate:

I take the time to find a good source for some bit of information and write out a citation, including the name of the source, page numbers, author, etc. Someone creates a link template for the same source and comes along and replaces what I added with a template. It has not added anything new to the profile, it simply changes "happy" to "glad." Seems like a wasted effort to me. 

I'm all for the link templates, but I don't think they should be forced upon anyone. 

And, as you say in the help page: Link templates are not intended to replace full source citations

answered by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (421k points)

Natalie --

This is a good point, and it will take some education of the community to help everyone understand that only the link within a citation should be replaced by the template. Additional text should remain as it is.

A good "do this" / "don't do that" example on would be a good addition.

This is a good point Natalie, and we have been working to educate within the Data Doctors.  We have been seeing people remove the FULL Find a Grave citation and replace it with only the template (shaking my head).  However, the Data Doctor protocol is to ADD the template to the citation so it has a very accessible link.

Yes, education would be needed, I agree.

Good points by all that education is the key to the eventual success of this guideline. And that is no different than it was to the success of any other of WikiTree's guidelines. I am sure that most of us recall the steep learning curve we encountered when we first joined WikiTree!

When we make this proposal an official guideline, we can begin the educational process that will enable most WikiTreers to understand the proper use of link templates.

We will also be able to refine the guidelines to make it easier for newcomers to understand this template type's usage earlier, thus minimizing future errors.

+7 votes

Can the Wikitree X app be updated to reflect the point you have made of : 

  • A parameter for including when a Find A Grave memorial page was accessed by a member is not acceptable because it's intended to create a more complete source citation rather than just a link.

Currently I use the Wikitree X app for most of my source citations and it renders the FindAGrave template as   

* {{FindAGrave|151853758|19 January 2018|Lynley Wyvern “Lyn” 

Drummond (Unknown-2007)}}

Reading the point italicised above says that it is now not acceptable if I
 am correct. Guidance requested Please.
answered by Darren Kellett G2G6 Pilot (100k points)
Everything will be changed to comply with what you decide here. And I will let EditBOT correct all usages of FindAGrave, WikiData and "Wikipedia" templates, that do not comply.

I will also program editbot to replace recognised URLs to template whenever ti saves the profile. For now it only corrects old Ancestry links to Working links. If this is accepted, it will correct them to template.
I would rather not create more work for EditBOT if I can avoid it which is why I asked about Wikitree X created Templates.
Editbot really doon't care if it makes 2000 or 2020 edits.
+13 votes

Since simple link created by a link template never creates a complete source citation that meets the ideal requirements of the Chicago Manual of Style or "Evidence Explained" .... 

Everyone using the template should know it is not to replace a source link.

answered by Guy Constantineau G2G6 Pilot (338k points)
edited by Guy Constantineau
Agreed on that point, Guy!
I think the whole point is it DOES replace the source LINK but not the CITATION from the source. The biggest benefit with this is if the "source" restructures its links we can change the setting of the template instead of changing 100,000 profiles.
+5 votes
I was supportive of this proposal until you mentioned having Editbot change existing links. I would support this change if it is voluntary but to force those of us who do not like or understand the template would drive many away from WikiTree.
answered by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
So you prefer dead links.
There certainly could be a case for Editbot changing before all those links die.
I check the profiles I manage as often as I can and have not found any "Dead Links" yet. I do not like changing things when they are not broken and Chris added this quote to his proposal that caused my answer "Ales wanted me to mention that EditBot could help update existing link templates to conform to new style rules, and could help change conventional links to link templates.". The automatic changing of conventional links to the template is my objection.
+7 votes
We've been using Magnus' template for a good while, and it went through the website change with flying colors which is after all the main point.

I don't and never will however see the drawback issue about sources for this particular template because FaG is just a website with questionable and variable quality of data.  A 400 year old parish register it ain't.  There are no page numbers, etc. to worry about.  It's just a link and should be useable in the source section as is (without implying WT data must match).
answered by Mikey Anonymous G2G6 Mach 4 (45k points)
+5 votes

I tend to lean toward allowing the user to use which ever format is most comfortable for them for original entry.  If copying an external link is easier, then let them do that.  If using a template is what they prefer, then let them do that.  If EditBot is used to do a mass conversion of the "link" format I don't think that is a huge issue as long as the rest of the text stays in place.  I would be in favor of template text that has enough detail to sort of mirror what you see from copy and paste links.  

I would have some kind of note that says something like:  Externally copied and pasted links may be converted by EditBot maintenance scripts to template format to ensure links do not break with upgrades. 

It does not force the user to learn a format they have difficultly understanding but notifies them that for consistency the format they used for entry may be changed.   

answered by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (492k points)
0 votes

I don't really understand this.  There's a list of allowed uses, which I don't get, but it could be restrictive.

The existing FindAGrave template is designed to stand alone as a sufficient complete citation.  It doesn't read well if embedded inside a citation, as in the example, which comes out as:

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 18 Jan 2018), memorial page for John Example (1800-1900), Find-A-Grave: Memorial #123 citing Canning Cemetery, Canning, Nova Scotia.

with a redundant Find-A-Grave: in the middle.


answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (445k points)

Actually that exact example causes a 571 error because of the without the memorial number right after it.

Find A Grave, database and images, memorial page for John Example (1800-1900), citing Canning Cemetery, Canning, Nova Scotia. {{FindAGrave|123| ~~~~~}}

that is actually cleaner and no errors. The 5 tildas btw put an access stamp. 4 tildas put your wiki-id and a timestamp.

The way to use the template link within the citation seems to be this:

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 18 Jan 2018), memorial page for John Example (1800-1900), {{FindAGrave|123}} citing Canning Cemetery, Canning, Nova Scotia, etc.

(I've started using the full citation generated by the Find A Grave site and work the template in the middle, as above).


Existing templates will be changed to comply with what is decided here. 

And Steven, it doesn't give the error if data in memorial 123 matches the profile. 571 is only created in case is anywhere on the profile and the Memorial number is not recognised and matched by data.

+1 vote
I'm also puzzled about the EditBot thing.

If I've written

* ''Find A Grave'', Memorial [http://blah/blah/12345678 12345678].

what is replaced with what?

Replacing the URL with the template will kind of work, but it won't look right.

Replacing the whole labelled [link] with the template won't look right either.

The whole line can be replaced with the template, but Eddie would have to analyze free text to figure that out.
answered by RJ Horace G2G6 Pilot (445k points) was the old style

editbot would replace it with {{FindAGrave|12345678}} while those links still work. is the new style.

Currently the old style automatically converts you to the new style. This feature may be removed in the futire.

But if you do that in my example, you end up with

* Find A Grave, Memorial [ Find-A-Grave: Memorial #12345678 12345678].

because the output of the template isn't just a URL, so it's not a like-for-like replacement for a URL.

+5 votes
I really, really like the Find A Grave template. I have been using it everywhere. It seems a lot cleaner and easier. Please approve.
answered by Sue Hall G2G6 Pilot (100k points)
Just because something isn't everything, doesn't mean it isn't something.

There is a lot of information on Find A Grave. Everything needs cross checking just like other sources. Sometimes it is the only information available. I spend a lot of time on Family Search finding vital statistic sources. Sometimes there is stuff there sometimes not. Sometimes their trees are wrong. But they also help find links.

Everything is provisional until better information is found.

There is so much that needs help out there, I don't intend to wait until perfection is found before improving what I find.

I understand how people labor over their tree. I generally don't touch profiles that obviously have been worked on.

There is a lot of unconnected, unsourced, orphaned profiles to work on.
+1 vote

Regarding the 2 reasons against this recommendation, I only see the issue as a potential problem.

Issue 1, that templates are confusing to members, is a moot point. All it takes is a willingness to learn and gain experience, which is no different than other aspects of WikiTree.

Issue 2, the loss of the links in exported data, is the main issue we would need to solve.

It would probably be less an issue for internal links, at least for WikiTree members who export the date. We could figure those out if we are somewhat familiar with link structure; we would already have the presumption that they are WikiTree links.

The sub-issue there would be exports by non-WikiTreers. Will the export be identified as a WikiTree file? Does this include data dumps? For non-WikiTreers, the internal-link issue would be similar the external-link issue.

For the external-link-templates issue, is the base website URL included in all the current ones (i.e. {{|NUMBER}} versus just {{FindAGrave|NUMBER}} (current version)? Is that possible for the template code?

Alternately, should we simply use both the template and the resource link in our citations, allowing usage of either one (template or link) or of both?

I personally like using the template as part of my citations, but can see the value in retaining use of the link as at least co-recommended usage. And allowing usage of both together seems to solve some of the export issues.

So my vote on this proposal is, after we tweak the style guidelines, that we recommend both the link and the template as preferred (well, at least acceptable/allowed/recommended) usage!!

answered by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (160k points)
edited by Lindy Jones
+4 votes
I support the use of link templates.


But, I don't support EditBot changing conventional links to templates unless it keeps the display the same.

So if I have a link like so: [ Census for John Doe], make sure to change it to something like {{Something|xyz|Census for John Doe}} instead of trying to do [{{Something|xyz}} Census for John Doe].

And if I've created an Evidence Explained-style citation with a naked link in it, don't just template the link and have it display whatever the template default text is. Keep the display as a link.
answered by Jamie Nelson G2G6 Pilot (195k points)
+3 votes

Not related to Chris's proposal (which I like, with caveats mentioned by others):

  • If EditBot is eager to edit URLs, could he/she/it give priority to fixing the many thousands of URLs that have the old format. Is this something that can be done across the site, or do we need to add profiles or categories to a queue for attention?
answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (913k points)
Yes, Ales has been asking whether he could start fixing the Ancestry links for a long time. I told him to wait until the link templates question was settled.
Ah, so the idea is to create templates that will generate Ancestry links, with the expectation that the template can be updated the next time Ancestry changes its URL structure.
+1 vote
I fall into keep it as simple as possible camp.

When things are too complex people will not use it.  

I think if you create a field for find a grave and drop in the URL and the system can convert it to an understandable source that is the optimum.  

I also like what Ales does behind the scenes he is a wizard.
answered by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (492k points)
+4 votes

 - Looks like Chris has hit the mark with his Question on Templates - so the answer is yes - - -

Congratulations to you on your G2G score, in this the 10th Year - - -

Top contributing members

Doug Lockwood 1,971,320
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thank you , and cheers - john.a

ps - and for the record the members tally - - -

Our tree includes 16,435,932 profiles (3,700,167 with DNA test connections) edited by 496,497 genealogists from around the world.

answered by John Andrewartha G2G6 Mach 4 (42.8k points)
edited by John Andrewartha

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