Let's add some ambiguity to the Estimated Dates tag

+29 votes
261 views

Currently, the {{Estimated Date}} tag defaults to stating that the birth date has been estimated. This is an unintuitive behaviour, particularly when one needs to specify other event dates as having been estimated, as per the template page:

{{Estimated Date|Death}}
{{Estimated Date|Marriage}}
{{Estimated Date|Birth and Death}}
{{Estimated Date|Birth and Marriage}}
{{Estimated Date|Death and Marriage}}
{{Estimated Date|Birth Death and Marriage}}

This is quite frustrating when one has overly "helpful" WikiTree enthusiasts "correcting" profiles, such as those with an estimated date of death but a known date of birth, by adding just the {{Estimated Date}} tag. 

Therefore, I would strongly suggest that for the tag to refer to a birth that it must specifically refer to a birth:

{{Estimated Date|Birth}}

That is the only intuitive option.

And in those instances where only the {{Estimated Date}} tag is used, that the profile should instead read, "At least one of the dates has been estimated."

Alternatively, if only the {{Estimated Date}} tag is used, then perhaps the text should be rendered based on the user-selected option (radio ) buttons:

  • about/uncertain but non-living  
  • exact/certain
  • before this date  
  • after this date  
  • still living
in Policy and Style by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
This post has not been answered does any one have any comments they would like to make.

Jn has made a good point
My own view would be the 'standard' date for estimation would be the birth so the default makes sense. As with any number of other topics, the issue does not lie with a sensible system design but with 'overly helpful' editors.
I retagged this question to remove non-relevant tags and add "improvements."

7 Answers

+4 votes
 
Best answer

That is a good point. With all new templates we try to avoid default values in such cases. But changing it is not the best thing to do. That is due to instructions on the template. As I remember it used to be without parameters that were later added. There is also the possibility, that the old template was just renamed to the new one and left without parameters as it was with the old template, where the wording was slightly different. So changing no parameter to Birth by EditBOT is not good, since it is not always the case.

There are 2 other old templates for the date estimation. DateGuess and DateGuess2

Here is the templates overview

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Database_Errors_Definition_Templates/Profile_Box

Here are the parameter usage stats.

http://www.softdata.si/wt/Templ_20190519/Template_Estimated_Date.htm

http://www.softdata.si/wt/Templ_20190519/Template_DateGuess.htm

http://www.softdata.si/wt/Templ_20190519/Template_DateGuess2.htm

by AleŇ° Trtnik G2G6 Pilot (515k points)
selected by Steve Harris
+3 votes

Hi JN

The answer to you question is here 

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Template:Estimated_Date

Show the variations as per your suggestion

by Janet Wild G2G6 Pilot (172k points)
That link confirms the problem that JN originally complained about.  He suggested that the unadorned {{Estimated Date}} tag not default to "estimated BIRTH date."  I agree with him.  The warning for the unadorned tag should not resort to only reporting the birth as estimated, especially when the status for the birth is marked "exact" and the status other dates are either unselected or something other than "exact."
+4 votes
I agree that it should not default to Birth and all specifics should require input.

Improving templates or any other aspect of wikitreedom to avoid confusing results shouldn't be based on what should happen but on what does happen.
by Deb Durham G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)

Deb - and here's what will happen if you take off the default - 90% of users will not add to the {{Estimated Date}} so you go to a profile and it will say 'something here is a guess'. Not very helpful.

Since you can generally estimate most key events to a sufficient level of accuracy from the birth date (e.g.vast majority of marriages are 20-40 years after birth, death usually occurs within 100 years) I would think there's a very good reason it's the default.

Driving system design by accommodating users' misuse of functionality is not a good way to go, IMO. More coaching and monitoring would seem a far better solution.

Altering the template to require input would be the best solution. Not sure what would be required to do that but it seems like it should be possible. In other words, using the template without indicating which dates(s) is estimated would produce an error message.
+1 vote
I strongly agree with the proposal.

But I will also add that it is things like this that continue to be a frustration about WikiTree. Good proposals for improvements seem to easily get lost here. There is no proposal list or tracker, nor any visibility as to what is being worked on here. Meanwhile, questionable changes, such as location of the display of categories, seem to get the focus.
by Eric Weddington G2G6 Pilot (228k points)

Please see the following 

The answer to the question is here 

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Template:Estimated_Date

Show the variations as per the suggestion

+4 votes
I agree that this is an excellent suggestion.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the profiles that currently use this maintenance template are intended to reference the Birth date and are set up without any optional parameter. Therefore, if this is implemented, we'll have to live with the increased vagueness on those profiles (until someone either edits the template or adds more precise dates). Does anyone think that this increased vagueness is a problem that should prevent this improvement?

Another problem: The template code does not always produce the result that is indicated by the instructions on the template page and if more than one date is specified it produces ungrammatical wording. See https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Template:Estimated%20Date&action=edit for the code.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
edited by Ellen Smith
Before making the change, EditBot could be set up to find all existing cases of {{Estimated Date}} and replace with {{Estimated Date|Birth}}.  Since that is the way it would display as-is, no harm would be done and after the template code is changed it would display exactly the same as it does now without the birth parameter.
+2 votes

A more general usage question: When, if ever, should an Estimated Date template be used? The Help page on Estimated Dates just says that, besides (1) using "uncertain" "before" or "after", as applicable, for the date field and (2) explaining the method used to arrive at an estimate, "you may want to draw special attention to it with the {{Estimated Date}} Research Note Box." The {{Estimated Date}} research box has always seemed to me to be unnecessary, redundant and unsightly. When/why would anyone ever use it? A very large percentage of profiles (particularly older ones) very properly have one or more estimated dates, so I think it would be odd and undesirable to flag them with a big banner for having them.

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (205k points)
I stuck it on my great-grand-aunt's profile in the hope that the "big grey ugly" would actually get her a birth date, something I haven't been able to do in more than thirty years of looking.
The "estimated date" template was formerly called "date guess." The name was changed because "guesses" aren't something we want to promote, but regardless of the name it's intended to flag situations where the date is truly just an informed guess -- for example, a person's birth date that's estimated from the marriage date of their only known child. These are situations where the date should be regarded as only a rough approximation.
I think there is probably a continuum of roughness of estimates. A DOB based on a person's own marriage date is maybe within a 10-year range, but a DOB based on a child's marriage date would maybe be a 20+-year range. I'm just not sure how meaningful or useful any template is for conveying how rough an estimate a date is. I don't think there is any substitute or shortcut for providing an explanation of the date in the bio, or reading the explanation if one is there.

A big bold template that says "Estimated Date" can be very helpful when we encounter members who may be having difficulty grasping the possibility that the person found in their received family tree with a birth date of (say) 1704 might could easily be the same person who is profiled in WikiTree with a birth date of 1695 or 1715. It's an alert that the dates should be considered from a broad-minded perspective.

PS - Unfortunately, not everybody reads biographies. Sometimes we need to shout to get the attention of people who look only at profile data. wink

+2 votes
I presume you mean dis-ambiguity on those tags.  

I don't think it should be used for all types of dates myself, should be for births and nothing else.  

For death, if the person is listed as parent on a child's marriage, it will often state ''late'' or similar, so one can then enter ''before X'' on the profile and say how it is arrived at in the bio.  It's not actually an ''estimate'' but a statement of case.

If there is no data available to do the above, then leave date of death blank;  we know they died due to the century they were in, but other than that unless we have evidence, entering a date there is totally misleading.  Even entering ''before X'' is prone to funky results, but it can be based on data, not some nebulous estimate.  

Same for marriage date, I don't know how often I've come across profiles where the marriage date was entered as ''before X'', based on an estimated age for a child of the marriage, and the whole thing was out to lunch since the estimated birth for the child was proven wrong.  And we cannot assume that he-she was an only child or the eldest.  So leave that date blank if no data in hand.
by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (335k points)

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