Not fully understanding the use of square brackets "[ ]" to hide URLs in citations/sources. [closed]

+14 votes
I see that the Wikitree help page on sources recommends bracketing the URL.  For example, to source  website, it suggests:

Wikipedia contributors. "[ George Washington]." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 Jan 2016.

And that ends up looking like this:

Wikipedia contributors. [1] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 Jan 2016.

It is kind of like having a source within a source.  Too much maybe?

Today, I was editing a profile wherein the profile had multiple sources to the same source but for different topics.  At first I thought that as different researchers entered sources, someone missed the <ref name=   > mark and created a duplicate source.  Once I opened all the pages, I could see that there were to different pages but for the same source.

The only way I could figure this out was to open each link (or hoover over each one with my cursor) and try to sort it out.  If each source had its URL exposed, it would have been clear immediately as each URL had differences.

I can see the appeal of bracketing a URL as it (sometimes) can make the sources look more "clean."  But really, the sources are more like the garage and serve a more utilitarian purpose.  If you want the bio to look clean - like the inside of the house, sure, bracket away - but in the garage, its OK to have the tools on the peg board - exposed - for easy identification.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject - yay or nay.  thanks

Edit to add: I wasn't adding the place name inside the brackets; the "1" seems to be just a placeholder on the page.
closed with the note: answered
in Policy and Style by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
It would be nice if sources appeared on a separate page so visitors could just see a clean biography but anyone researching the profile could just click a link to the source page with no need for brevity. Too many sources are just a link with no mention of the repository. Sources need both where is it and who controls/ presents the data. The vast majority of urls are going to be dead links within ten or twenty years and the Wayback Machine is far from foolproof.

If you can't source the source, it is not a good source.
I agree that the source should always include the full everything AND the link.  But, I'm going to disagree with you about having the sources on a separate page.  The whole idea of the sources is so that you can EASILY check where the info in the bio came from.  If you have to go to a separate page you have to keep two pages open and go back and forth.  With the inter-page links, as you read the bio, you can click the citation, it pops you to the sources, see where it came from, then click the up arrow and continue reading the bio.  When the url is obscured, you have an extra step to hoover your mouse over the url link.

I guess what I'm saying is, I don't care if the bio isn't neat and tidy - it serves a purpose and making it tidy takes away from its utility value.  I guess a good analogy would be having coffee cups hanging on hooks above the sink versus coffee cups in a cabinet in the living room.  One looks nicer, one is more convenient for the user.
Some of the google books URL sources are especially bad as one really wants to see what author book and page(s) are being referenced.

5 Answers

+20 votes
Best answer

I think you may have it slightly incorrect, SJ.  If you put a URL inside single brackets and put a SPACE between the URL and what you want to see on the page
[ George Washington]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 Jan 2016.

See the space between the URL and the words "George Washington"?  That means you will get
George Washington.  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  Accessed 1 Jan 2016.

You won't get  [1] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 Jan 2016.

When you do it with double brackets (for an internal link) you put a pipe in there - like [[Haywood-41|Ros Haywood]].  With single brackets, you are merely putting a space instead of a pipe.

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
selected by Dennis Wheeler
I see what you're saying but I doubt that the average person is going to add a descriptor within the brackets - so many can barely even manage to create a source.

I think that if someone wants to add brackets because they want to put a clean descriptor link that's great - but having the default to obscure the URL just makes more work when reading the sources when the URLs are obscured.
I tend to disagree.  The 'average person' is surely VERY likely to add a descriptor - since that is the way it's done.
If using the brackets, then I would urge people to use this approach. The number will confuse a lot of people. An identifier string would be better but in the sources area, I expect to see longs strings and it doesn't interfere with reading the source. In the Bio, that is a different matter.
If you're getting [1] for the link, then its because the link inside the brackets doesn't have a space to separate the link from the name of the link.

If all you want it the bare link itself, then don't put it in brackets at all.
If you fail to name the link within the brackets,  you end up with a number that confuses everyone with the reference numbers..... If you name the URL Link,   it's pretty clear to someone unfamiliar with WikiTree that it's a link outside the profile.....  Just my approach in the biography only.
+13 votes
Personally, in a source I want to see the URL It is part of the source so no reason to hide it.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (463k points)
Hovering over the index number reveals the URL.
I understand that, but you have to physically do something to make it appear. That interrupts my reading. Also, very annoying on some tablets.
Unfortunately, many URLs are long and unwieldy so "hiding" them in an appropriately formatted link makes for far easier reading.
I use this for clickable links to newspaper articles, especially. The url and title go inside the brackets, and the title of the newspaper and date etc go afterwards. It looks neat and tidy, makes it clear what the source is and the reader can easily click through to the historic article.
+13 votes
The only problem I have with not using brackets is the length of many URLs. When the citation runs off the page it's impossible to read anyway.
by Shirley Dalton G2G6 Pilot (503k points)
Shirley, I'm going to agree with you there - if the URL is so long that it bleeds into the right column bar then I think that would be OK in my opinion.
+10 votes
Well, I understand your frustration but I'm on the other side of this ... making the URL visible just makes the citation look like a mess.  If you're trying to look at the URL you put your cursor on the link and it will appear at the bottom of your browser ... well, yeah, it may be truncated, grin ... but I stand by my 'messy source' comment!  To each his/her own ...

And, oh, I didn't look close enough at the original question ... I just assumed that most everyone put a description after the URL and before the closing ']' ... maybe that should be added to the 'suggestions' program.  Just having a number is pretty confusing.
by Bob Jewett G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
edited by Bob Jewett
+7 votes

In the biography area, I use double brackets and LINK  to help differentiate from the reference numbers...

[[ Link]]  

but I don't put more than the one link within the brackets.......  Maybe it's ok to not use brackets for short URLs  but I end up with some pretty long ones...

In the source area,  I leave the family search URLs as copied from their site (they have pretty short URLs)..... if they get long I think about it.indecision

by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (450k points)
edited by Peggy McReynolds
double square brackets are intended to be use to link to "internal" wikitree pages.

single square brackets are intended to link to "external" sites (outside of wikitree)

Peggy, when you use double brackets for an internal link, you have to put a pipe (the character that looks like a vertical line "|", found as upper case of the backslash located above the ENTER key on most keyboards) instead of a space between the relative address (the internal page identifier) and the label (what you want to be displayed as the link).  An example could look like:


That would link to your profile page.  The URL you used in your example is an external link, even though it is pointing at an internal page, because you provided the absolute address (the complete URL) to the page, instead of the relative address of page once you're already at WikiTree. That link would be correct if you used single brackets for it instead of double brackets.

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