Should change explanations be required? [closed]

+49 votes

Hi WikiTreers,

We are planning a round of improvements related to the "Explain your changes" field that you see on edit pages. As most of you know, entering something in this field means that your explanation will be included in the activity feed item, e.g. "fixed typo in source" in:

Traci Thiessen edited the Biography for John Winston Lennon (1940-1980). (fixed typo in source)

Among the planned changes:

  • Add the explanation field to free-space profile editing pages.
  • Add it to the page for editing marriages.
  • Add it to the page for adding and editing family members.
  • Repeat the field below the text editing section so that it appears twice on the profile editing page. (And, if we make the policy change described below, it would appear again in a prompt if you save your changes without an explanation.)

Many of these changes have been requested here in G2G in the past, and I apologize that we haven't implemented them sooner.

Included with these technical changes, if the community supports it, would be a significant policy change: making the explanation field required on profile editing pages. It's currently optional. Going forward, you would always need to explain your changes.

There would likely be exceptions for private profiles, and this would only apply to profile editing, not editing relationships. (It's already required for merges and Last Name at Birth changes.)

This policy change has been discussed a few times in the past. Most recently it was proposed by Robin Lee here.

From my perspective, the main reasons to do this:

1.) It would make activity feeds more useful and enhance collaboration. Right now you see a lot of "edited the Biography" lines and you have no idea what was done unless you click over to see the details. A lot of members don't bother. Even if you do click over to see the details, they can be hard to understand if there is a long string of changes made by one person. You have to page through them all.

2.) It would discourage saving too often. Some members are in the habit of saving their changes every minute or two. This is probably a good habit they developed to avoid losing their changes. Most members wouldn't see any reason not to do it. It's what they do on their home computers. Plus, members who care about their contribution counts know that it helps boost their stats.

The problem is that frequent saves have hidden costs. It crowds activity feeds and makes change histories harder to understand (#1 above). And there is a financial cost to WikiTree. It's more data that we need to process and save forever. (We actually save a complete version of all the profile data every time a change is saved. This is what enables the details pages and reverting to previous versions.) These costs are small but they add up.

There can't be an objective or universal rule for often you should save your changes. Some members will want to save more often than others. But right now, most members would see no reason not to save. There is no cost to the individual, just to the community. This policy change would provide some balance. You wouldn't save unless it's worth it to you to include a few words of explanation. If it's not worth explaining, it's not worth saving.

Do you have thoughts? If you're not already in the habit of adding change explanations, maybe you could try it on all your edits for a little while and then come back and comment about your experiences.

I'm answering this question with a "Yes, I support this change" and a "No, I don't." Please vote up your preference and comment with an explanation.



closed with the note: see comment below
in The Tree House by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
closed by Chris Whitten
Philip - editing relationships is one thing that should require sources, as well as a comment, so that we know 'who' added or removed a relative.  As this point, it shows up as the 'next person' that edits a profile, if that, which is probably not the person that actually changed the marriage info, as an example.  This has been asked repeatedly that when a relationship is changed, that it be added to the Changes Log for all affected profiles, but that has not been done up to this point.  It may be included in the Changes Log for the profile that you were on at that time, but not on the other 'related' profile.  I think of that 'proposed' change as closing a loophole in the documentation that we have.
Then I'd welcome it in an instant. Thanks for explaining it to me this way (I'd also suggest that on implementing this feauture, that only project members may edit projects in such a fashion and that only after a explanation has been provided - empirically sourced). Chris - I'm changing my down-vote to an upvote.
Phil, I think that is also what Chris said was that if they are Project Protected, that only the project can add the relatives, instead of it being limited to the spouse, if that is the one that is restricted.  The problem that I have with that, is that currently we have thousands, I think, of profiles that have the project protection on them but there are suggestions because the project account and / or project box is not associated with the profile.  That will limit those types of changes until they have been corrected, but I think that is still the better option.
Philip, how is asking a clarifying question (so that I better understand your viewpoint ) dismissive or bashing?

I even agreed with your opinion about newsletters.
Linda, we have various projects - say for example three, large ones. In one time period (150 years) all those siblings and spouses should be part of the project as well. So that is not the issue. The issue is (as has been stated over and over in the past) that the validating factors should be a) the spelling of the LNAB b) the spousal connections c) the children and half-siblings. With primary sources (baptisms, marriages and death notices & wills) a lot of the validation can be done. A vast amount. Sticky issue is though that generation upon generation certain naming paterns were maintained, with the same names (spelled phonetically the further back in time one goes) passing on to the next child of the same sex if one child dies in infancy, or unto the next generation. There are thousands of potential siblings and spouses out there with exactly the same names. They must be protected as well, as soon as they are validated.
Chris, I hope I'm not stepping out of line here, but I would like to make a suggestion.  Could you close this question/thread and resubmit the proposal, but break it down to something smaller/slower that might be more generally acceptable, something more incremental?  I see a lot of negative votes who also suggest not requiring the explanations for profiles for which one is the profile manger; to be honest  I am one of them.  But I do see the value of explanations in many cases, particularly when making changes of any kind to a profile managed by someone else.

I believe many would support a gradual change like that, and if it needs to be made more wide ranging, then make the case for it in a future proposal.

I would be glad to promise to use less "saves" in the future if the proposal as is could be made less mandatory in all cases.  Only jesting, I have already taken your comments about excessive saves to heart and will try to be careful about how often I save in the future. Thank you

Hi WikiTreers,

I am closing this proposal. Here's the status of things.

We have already added the explanation/summary field to the marriage editing and free-space editing pages.

In the near future we will be:

  1. Adding the field to the page for adding family members.
  2. Adding a second appearance of the field on the profile editing page.
  3. Adding auto-fill selections on the profile editing page, e.g. so you could select "Adding sources" or "Fixing typos" etc., and that would be automatically filled in the explanation field without you having to type it.

At some point soon we may be making some changes to the data validation warnings so that they are more user friendly. At this time we might add a warning for not including an explanation. If you save changes to an Open profile with no changes except to the text section, the system would suggest that you enter or select an explanation. You could choose to ignore this and "save anyway".

In the somewhat longer term, we have been looking at creating an advanced text editing system that includes a live preview of your changes. As part of this we might automatically save changes in draft form. This would mean you wouldn't have to worry about losing your changes if there was a system outage. You could wait to fully commit your changes until you are done. If we do this, we would probably make a change summary part of committing your changes.


adding the field to the page for adding family members appears redundant, the reports on changes we get already state ''added xyz as child of ....''.  ''added abc as wife of ...''
oh, and a suggestion on the surname activity feed reports, there is a family whose name is Canada.  I kid you not.  So any time its profile managers do anything, all those who follow the tag Canada (the country) get reports about these.  Needs disambiguation somewhere.

Thanks for getting the explanation onto the marriage page.  Now if we can just get changes made on that page to be reflected on both spouse's Changes Log, it would be great.

On the Free Space page, it would be helpful to have it at the top 'and bottom', as the Edit Profile has, instead of just at the bottom, since now we have to scroll down to even realize that it is there.  

Thanks for everything.

21 Answers

+76 votes

Yes, I support this change.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

@ Ellen .. except that's not a revision.  It's usually a first edit after creation.

If I am Sourcing, though, I may make the same type of edit and the same comment (because I cannot just drop a registration number and call it "sourced" as I have seen some do).  So, without checking the edit, how is anyone to know which I did?  A first biography, or a source filler with biography.

As for thanks .. I don't do what I do for thanks .. and certainly not some of the more "slap in the face with a dead fish" type of comments I have seen.

Ellen, point 2 of Chris' post is all about data storage issues.  The problem with these little blurbs is that often there is more than one thing done but only one is mentioned in the change summary.  So you still have to look at what was done in changes log.  

I do a lot of bilingual bios, starting with one language, building the bio with sources inline etc.  I save periodically, as it's happened too often that my work got lost in the ether.  I don't see the sense in reiterating the fact that I am doing the bio multiple times, I write it when I start.  And when I do the translation part, again I will save periodically, but only put ''translating'' the first time.  Repeating what I am doing over and over is just couterproductive.

What about when you wish to add a hidden comment <!-- William's father was born out of wedlock, but none of the living children know this, so this statement is here for when they either find out some other way, or have died. -->

Or <!-- Jean's mother (Rona) killed her (Rona's) husband and three of her children when Jean was just 2 years old, leaving Jean alive only because she was not home at the time.  Jean was adopted and knows none of this history.  This comment is here for when Jean and her children either know from some other source, or Jean has died. -->


Doesn't leaving an edit comment negate the hiding?  What, then, is the point of using the <!--  --> tags?

Melanie, when you talk about adding a hidden comment and keeping it hidden, I guess you must be talking about Private pages that have Public Biographies, since those are the only types of pages where other people can read the biography, but only people on the Trusted List will be able to see hidden comments you have inserted in the biography. On an Open or Public page, any hidden comment you create will be visible to other members who look at the Edit page.

Regardless of the page type, if you've added a hidden comment, your edit summary could say something like "added note as a hidden comment."


And it's great that you always add BMD records (etc.) in your second edit after creating a new profile (if for some reason you didn't include them when you created the profile), but many contributors aren't as conscientious as you apparently are, so we might see those kinds of additions being made in 2019 on a profile created in 2013 that lists many sources and has undergone several merges since it was created, but never cited BMD records.
I can understand not wanting to fill in this "explain your changes" box every single time, but reading some of the comments here it would seen that this box is found by some to be useless and even counter-productive. This IMO is going a bit far. Surely having the courtesy of giving an explanation (even short) especially when working on someone else's profile should not be seen as a bad thing.
I am opposed to compulsion for every change, but agree with isabelle Martin that it is wrong to regard the explanation box as useless.

Much of my own work on WT is either creating profiles or major rewriting/filling-out/clean-up of profiles. I don’t need to explain to myself what I am doing on profiles I create. Where I do a major rewrite/expansion and there are other profile managers, I put a comment on the profile first to announce that I plan to do this and give the profile managers a chance to be involved: that is, I think, enough - I do not see a need to give an explanation for every subsequent edit. In some cases, especially where there are longish bios of notables, it can take lots of research and 50 or 60 edits over some days to get the profile into a state I feel is reasonably ok. Some of the edits are because I am not an accurate typist, and it can take quite a few read-throughs for my ageing eyes to pick up all the typos, missing full stops, coding slips, etc etc etc.

Where I am just doing a minor correction of fact or typos or tidying/clean-up on profiles managed by others, I try to remember to give a very brief explanation, either in the explanation box or in a comment on the profile, depending how much I think needs to be said. Sometimes, if I do a series of minor edits, I will add the explanation only when I do what I think is going to be the final one.

@ Ellen .. other members, yes.  But edit comments are viewable by everyone, logged in or not, aren't they, so the "hidden comment" would be visible to everyone, member and non-member alike.  (My entire contributions list is available to anyone at all, member and non-member, therefore so is yours.)

Example - viewing when logged out:

27 Oct 2019

19:14: Melanie Paul edited the Biography for Dorothy (Paul) Lee (1849-1906). (Updating information.) [Thank Melanie for this]

This page has been accessed 60 times.

25 Oct 2019

16:21: Melanie Paul edited the data for Hebert Llewellyn Coneybeer (1904-1978). (Marking no more siblings.) [Thank Melanie for this]

This page has been accessed 69 times.

24 Oct 2019

14:33: Melanie Paul edited the data for Jacob Gam (1864-1939). (Adding image reproduction of newspaper item, and citation for same.) [Thank Melanie for this]

This page has been accessed 229 times.

This, in my opinion, means that a commented hidden comment isn't truly hidden at all, because a curious non-member only needs to register, do all the neccesaries, then they can go check on edit mode to read said hidden comment.

Also, I'm not going to add my inline sources at creation because they would not BE inline sources.  They go with the biography and I have yet to discover how to write the entire biography from the profile creation screen (unless it's to use "notes").


When creating a profile, Create the biography in the Notes section with the inline citations.  Something has to be put in the sources section to save it, but that can be removed once it is saved, but the rest of the biography is done
actually, if you put sources inline in the notes section, it counts on sources, no need to add anything in sources box
What Danielle said
+72 votes

No, I do not support this change.

If you vote this up, please post a comment below with an explanation. If you would like to recommend something different, you could post a new proposal and link to it from here. See Help:Developing_New_Rules.

by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

'O, Gaile, 'o ANYONE, spare my maidenly blushes. 

When I was growing up, my peers didn't futz with words since (nor did my father) -- but of course in those days we didn't have email nor texting on devices -- and if we were going to use impolite we were also poised for flight ... or fight. Hmm.  And according to google, most cuss words originate in Germanic or Latin roots, or Old English and embrace"bodily functions, God and sex." Which shows a singular grasp of what was and is important in life since time immemorial ...  

I shoulda known. In my CURRENT world POS is "Point of Sale" ... so of course I WAS wondering (but not anymore) how "Point of Sale" was part of or attached to or involved with measurements of productivity .... business models and inventories and many of the mercantile applications etc ... um. Just recalled an essay on the economics of prostitution I read as an aside for Business Management. Whoops !! 

Nick, I have no position of any sort within wikitree other than having volunteered to act as a ranger for an hour a week. I hope I  do try to see the wider picture. Monitoring the feed as a Ranger but also for my fields of interest has demonstrated to me that explanations are a valuable addition and not solely for those that you describe as 'high profile, profiles.  At the moment such explanations are few and far between.

 For the rest of your answer, I feel that your rather  vivid imagery belies your protestation that I should not read it as a personal attack.I have fewer contributions yes, and  I'm certain I don't spend as long working on wikitree as some others Nevertheless,  I might spent days working with  primary records or transcribing them.No complaints, I enjoy doing it. However, the result might be very few contribution points e.g.  20 pages  trannscription of 17th C  will; 4  contribution points. I joined wikitree because one of its precepts was it claimed to care about accuracy and sourcing. I got into researching people from my own locality purely because when I tried to tackle unsourced local profiles I found  there were many tangled webs and unsurported relationships.And yes, I care about those profiles and try to watch those I've worked on .My  own watchlist  consists  mainly of ag labs, cobblers and shepherds living in rural England .

 But quite honestly,  my reply wasn't about me . It was because I have seen a value in adding explanations that I suggested  doing what Chris asked in the original post and trying the idea out.

the response to you may have gotten personal Helen, but from what I read it was not meant as an attack.  Meanwhile, contributions numbers don't really mean all that much, it's a fascination people have with numbers, driven by our mercantile economy mostly.  Which is always going on about newer, bigger, more....   For my book, small is beautiful.  wink

This from someone who has over 81,000 contributions already and also big numbers on G2G.  Believe me, one can make numbers say almost anything.  (retired accountant me. cheeky )

Nick, your comments are good for a good laugh this morning.  I have no idea what FUBAR stands for. I am sure I would blush.
I suspect that BAR stands for Beyond All Recognition. I should think you can imagine what the FU is for.
I didn't think of the feed watching done by the Rangers before Helen mentioned it.

That'll prevent swear words as explanations, I suppose.
Yes, I am sure they will catch those, but acronyms seem to work.

US Navy civilian in the 70s-90s... BAR = Beyond All Repair

The textbooks for one of my journalism/comm classes (don't recall if undergrad or post-grad) included Wheeler's Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America -

See also,_damned_lies,_and_statistics

Eva, indeed it can stand for that, or it could also be from this:

I had to go chasing to figure out what PITA stood for also, since one can eat pita bread, but that didn't seem quite relevant in context.  laugh  Alphabet soup seems to be the in thing nowadays.  

Danielle, "Believe me, one can make numbers say almost anything."

So true! One of my favorite quotes; "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

I may have used the 'statistical' approach to further my self-serving point of view and I apologize to Helen & all for that.

Edie,  I am trying mightily to temper my disagreement with this proposal with humor. Its hit or miss if I actually achieve anything that gets a chuckle--so thanks! Eva has got the gist of it and it was inspired by Gaile's dip into the byzantine world of military acronyms.

Helen, please trust that this was absolutely not intended to be any form of an attack. I simply find that sometimes when talking about big picture concepts (especially on a free wheeling, fast moving forum like this) that it is clarifying to break it down into 'real-world' specifics for the point of comparison/contrast and I apologize profusely if I offended you by using you to attempt to do that. 

However, in your latest post, I feel that you have made my point for me. To hold my entering the data for a 1942 WWII draft or a 1998 SSDI  record to the same explanation standards as your transcription of a 17th century will is simply nonsensical to me. The lack of an explanation in no way affects the accuracy of that SSDI and the potential mandatory explanation only yields unproductive tedium for me.

Again, I think it is important for Chris and the wikiteam to recognize that there are a multiplicity of people doing a multiplicity of voluntary 'jobs' here and these broad sweeping proposed rule changes affect them all differently.  I hope they can see that my work on 1850's - current people are 'gateways' to get to their ancestors (your 1700's and older people) and that both of our efforts further the goals set out here (one tree + accuracy etc); however, the same set of rules need not apply to everyone in every situation.

Further, even a very amateur genealogist such as myself cannot help but recognize the scale and scope of which type of profiles will be the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY 

of those affected--how many descendants might that 1700's person have? 

EDIT: I see that fast-typing Liz got to the quote before I was able to turtle-type my comment laugh

+11 votes

edited 25 Oct. 2019: The discussions have swayed me - not so much the explanations of why folks are opposed (although many sound objections have been raised), but mostly the discussions about implementing and regulating the requirement, which appears to foreshadow an onerous requirement (generating lots and lots of DBEs) that would make me think twice before editing any profile at all. I have cancelled my up vote for the "Yes" post & up-voted the "No" post.

Yes, I support this change... but perhaps for pre-1700 or maybe exclude active WikiTree profiles? Changed my mind. I don't support requiring an explanation.

Love all the other planned changes! (But sorry, I'll still need to save often - at least until I get a new computer. My current one crashes fairly frequently.)

by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (358k points)
edited by Liz Shifflett
deleted - no longer relevant (since I've changed my mind)
Having read pros/cons ... I'm still for this, but am convinced an explanation should only be required for pre-1700 profiles (which would include pre-1500 profiles).

Personally, aside from my own profile, I try to always add an explanation. And thinking of proposed changes while doing so the past couple of days... When you add a box for explainin' with the Save button at the bottom of the page, can you link the two "explain your changes" boxes to autofill each other?

+12 votes
I would support the change. However, I do have a question. Is it possible to have that comment optional if you're working on one of your own profiles? (I'm talking direct relative, not some orphan you adopted that has no relationship to you) I'm notorious for seeing typos after I hit save and I try to make a note "Fixed my Typo" on profiles I don't manage, so the PM can know what the change was, but I'm more slack about such updates on my own profiles.

Also, if a profile is private, but you make an edit...who is really going to know how exactly you changed that profile? Only you, the PM can see it.

Another thought (second edit): Maybe having a second "explain your changes" at the bottom, in case someone has been working on sources and bio only, not bio data? Save them scrolling to the top of the page to note what they've done?

I would only support the change to mandatory comments if your own profiles were subject to exclusion rights. That should technically be possible to implement.
by Raewyn Vincent G2G6 Mach 4 (42.9k points)
I agree with this - if you aren't the PM, require comment. If you ARE the PM, then don't require it. PM's generally know their profiles pretty well.
+10 votes

I support the general idea since I try to add summaries to every change I make, but I do have some reservations/questions that are preventing me from voting at this time:

  1. This will most likely lead to vague edit summaries (i.e., "...", or "I made some changes"). This is backed up by existing tools (such as WikiTree+ suggestions) in which tons of comments or "changes" are added with really vague comments (i.e., "fixed").
  2. If there are limits imposed on edit summaries, then this will lead to potentially misleading summaries (i.e., Mentioning one change but not another due to character limitations).
  3. When you say "It would discourage saving too often" I would tend to disagree, as I would think that by imposing this requirement, we would also need to enforce the usefulness of the edit summaries being added (see #1 and #2 above).
  4. I have heard before that "even a short summary is better than no summary", but this may lead to some aggravation where explaining the change takes more time and effort than making the change itself: "Corrected spelling" (and the change as seen on the history page is: "distrect" to "district".

So the question would be:

If change summaries are required, do they need to also be useful?

If this is indeed the case, then smaller and more frequent changes would be needed in order to provide the maximum benefit of those summaries (also see Willem's comment).

While I do not use the "small and more frequent" change method on WikiTree now, I will certainly feel the need to do this moving forward to provide the best (and easiest to view) details possible to those who are viewing the profiles I work on.

As an example, a complete bio rewrite is something that can be done in one save. An explanation of "Bio rewrite and added sources" may be helpful to know what is going on; however, this leads to a very large change history page (i.e., which is not even an extreme example) in which it is hard to follow the entire series of events for the profile. Did I miss a section when making this large change? Did I confuse a source? Did I mismatch dates?

One the other hand, a more useful and easily viewed and understood change (and page) is one in which a single verifiable change was made, such as: "Added marriage data and source" (i.e.,

by Steve Harris G2G6 Pilot (323k points)
at work, whenever we've implemented required change comments, we've also had to implement a minimum number of text characters in the comment, in order to limit the number of lazy comments
If it is a typo, as it often will be, 4 characters are enough. We do not, I think, need a minimum should this change go ahead.
Michael, see my question posed. If the intent is for the edit summary to be useful, then a simple "typo" summary would be ruled out.
I don’t think it should be ruled out. If I insert a comma or correct a simple spelling error, or make a sentence start with a capital letter, which takes seconds, it would be silly to have to spend time explaining it in more detail. Like saying where the typo is, or what the typo is. Typo is enough of an explanation. If I make a number of typo corrections and then save, should I really be asked to detail them all in an explanation? That seems to me daft and would be time-consuming. Anyone who wants to see what the typo correction(s) is(are) can go to the changes log.

As you may have seen I am opposed to making it compulsory to add explanations for all changes.
Just to be clear Michael, that is my question (and why I have refrained from voting until this can be clarified). If change summaries are required but do not need to be useful, then change the typo and put "typo" or even "..." in the summary.
Thanks, Steve, for the clarification. :-)
I may be in the minority but for me "typo" is a useful Explain your Changes comment. When I see it on my watchlist changes, I know I don't need to check the Changes log on the profile.
I'm with you IR - "typo" is sufficient... although I might check anyway, to make sure it was truly a typo (differences between US & other countries' styles/spelling are sometimes corrected as a typo, which they aren't, and I've also seen corrections made to typos within quoted material, which should get a [sic] instead).

I just posted a reply elsewhere on this page with examples of what i use currently - to include "minor punctuation edit" - but I would also consider just "minor" sufficient (again, I might check to see if my definition of minor is the same as the person's who made the change).

I think the definition of "usefulness" is way too subjective to include that as a requirement. (And I still get annoyed at times by G2G's minimum character requirement; I'm with Michael that I don't think a minimum should be imposed if the change to require an explanation is made.)

although I might check anyway, to make sure it was truly a typo

This is one of the concerns I listed, where there is a vague or misleading edit summary.

maybe it's our semantics Steve - you're wanting a meaty summary while I just want a signpost as to the type of edit made. I would be against this rule if the intent was to have the explanation take as much (or more) time and thought as the change itself.

I adopted/developed a profile yesterday. I think that the explanations I gave are sufficient. Looking at the Changes log tells the story of that development. There was one entry I didn't explain (my computer froze before I could get back to the explanation box, but I was able to mouse-click the Save button). And I think that on one of the edit sessions, I couldn't remember what all I'd done, so it may have an inaccurate explanation. But that's an honest oops. 

As I said elsewhere, I probably add more of an explanation since I'm on a full keyboard and I'm a fast typist. The explanations would have - in my opinion - been just as useful if they were all just one or two words (e.g., developing; added bio; added more; aesthetics; added more; added notes; added links; updated datafields). Either what I did say or the examples just given - again, in my opinion - are a clue to whoever sees them as to whether or not they look at the details of the change, which is what I thought the explanation box was intended for.

to give you an example of how I work these explanations, see 

I was specifically asked to do the translation to English on this profile, which falls under 2 projects, Filles à Marier and Acadian.  It is a profile among the ''most looked at'' in WikiTree, which was why the English bio was needed.  When I looked at the existing French bio, I wasn't satisfied with it, so redid that one, adding sources inline and researching and so on.  Once that was done, the translation was simple but still saved in more than one chunk.

+14 votes

"We actually save a complete version of all the profile data every time a change is saved. This is what enables the details pages and reverting to previous versions"

This shouldn't actually be necessary. Most revision control tools only save the diffs, not a complete version.

by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (460k points)
Is that the case for a wiki, Dennis? On every Wiki I have encountered, it is possible to pull up a copy of the page as it existed at every step in the edit history.  (Here in WikiTree, that would apply only to the text portion, not the data fields.)
I agree with Dennis.

Ellen: just because it displays a copy of the whole page throughout an edit history, does not mean that it is stored this way.

The diff changes are enough for software to recreate the state of a page at any step of the way. (Side note: This is the same thing that is done to compress streaming video, such as Netflix.)

Having said that, if WikiTree is actually saving the whole page on every single change, then that is a very inefficient way to store data, and it will catch up to them sooner or later.

Source: am software engineer, and I have worked on open source projects.

See Steve Harris’s answer here:

+5 votes

enlightenedIF the whole purpose is to ensure that a comment is left in the box for changes made: 

  • 1 - Simply make sure in the soft ware that nothing will be saved unless an explanation is made in the box will do the job, if the idea is to make sure PM, any PM, put in an explanation about their activity. 
  • 2 - Or, divvy it up -- the PM managing the file need not explain since it is more than likely self-explanatory, but anyone else, no matter who they are, must enter an explanation or what they do is not saved. This would of course include Orphaned profiles etc.  
by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (151k points)

How much of an explanation is needed?

Would one keystroke, say a period, be adequate for the software police if something has to go in the box.

That currently works when editing a LNAB. My fingers often hit double keys and despite looking the field over there have been three that I have had to edit just after they saved and just a period placed in the explanation box works.

kiss Walter, I had no idea whatsoever that just a period entered would suffice. That is mind blowing (to me). I'd go so far as to say that's wonderful. Thank you !!

+5 votes
I'm in favor of requiring the explanation. Also when I make a major change (e.g., date, detaching spouse or relative), I make a full explanation in the text of the bio, giving Wikitree ID#s so that they can be tracked down.
by Patricia Hickin G2G6 Mach 8 (81k points)
+9 votes
Seeing this week’s Data Doctors Challenge of the Week - correcting simple errors in reference tags - confirms me in my view that compulsory explanation for all changes is not sensible. How many challenge participants would welcome the extra effort and time taken in placing an explanation on the profile every time they corrected an error? Do we want to reduce the number of simple errors like these that get corrected in challenges? Surely not. But we would do so - and might well put off some participants - if we insisted on all participants putting explanations on every profile they corrected. It may take only half a minute or so a profile, but that quickly mounts up in challenges.
by Michael Cayley G2G6 Mach 5 (57.4k points)
Actually in challenges I will put in an explanation, since that will usually entail working on profiles managed by other people. And since the challenges often revolve around a single type of change it is easy to copy/paste.

It's when I am working on profiles I'm the sole manager for that adding explanations for every change, however small, becomes a burden.

Data Doctors, when editing profiles, are supposed to leave a comment explaining their edit.  It is also recommended to identify as a DD, but not required.  (The edit comment is.)

Those are easily enough covered by "Data Doctor: addressing suggestion (number name)."

That's it.  My browser "form" holds the memory of those fills, so they are easily added before saving.  (The Data Doctor form fill is not a long list.  My list of "added blah blah", however, is.)

Agree with Joke, I always explain change, when doing DD report or other edits to profiles. When working on the DD report, am doing same edit over and over, so inserting same explanation is no extra work.  It is when creating profiles and working on writing sourced biographies, that I'm unable to do it without 20-30+ saves, during the process, and will not do them if required to complicate the task.
Thanks for putting me right on Data Doctor guidance, Melanie. It shows how rarely I take part in challenges.
Agree that Data Doctors have to enter a comment when they change a profile. And I find the ref tags particularly difficult (it's essential to review the profile carefully once out of edit mode to make sure nothing has gone awry).

Re: working on complicated changes on a biographies, when I do this I would just enter "temp save" as an explanatin, with a fuller comment of what I've been doing for the first and last saves.

I have used "interim save" after the first commented save on a long, or "complicated" biography (usually an ANZAC's profile).  It just seems unnecessary to keep making longer explanatory comments when it can all be seen — IF ANYONE REALLY NEEDS TO SEE EVERY SINGLE EDIT MADE — on the change log.   (I disagree that every person ever to view a profile NEEDS to see every single edit.  I do not care one jot for edits made 10 years ago to a profile, unless those edits are somehow pertinent to what I am doing today.)

The change log is very useful and pretty flexible. Easy to review the latest changes, if that's what you want. Fairly easy to find out when, in ancient times, something was done to the profile - like PPP-ing it according to the old standards. The tricky thing is to follow a series of merges to the "bottom", but with some practice that can also be done.

I guess the comment/explanation is useful for feeds - to tell people on the t-list of a profile that "this is a new legit source" (OK, I'll go check it out) and "this is a typo" (shrug) and "this is a ref tag mended" (oh, I should thank the DD for that). This is why I use the explanation field on profiles with others on the t-list.

I do not think it's useful for myself - my memory ain't that bad (and if I mess up, the change log is a much better tool). I don't think I need to make explanations in order to collaborate with myself. My arms and shoulders certainly don't need extra typing - and my nerves don't need another screaming red banner nagging me if I should forget the explanation. I'd have to leave off too often in order not to Wikitree while angry.

Comparing on the change log can make it look like a lot of changes were done, but in reality 2 sections were flipped, ie moving research notes up above Sources because there was a 'ref' statement in the Research / Notes section after Sources.  It is not always easy to see what was changed when you are constantly looking back and forth trying to find a difference.  a Red punctuation or 'ref' or something similar to not always easy to see.
Whenever I start typing in the "explain your changes" box, my browser (Firefox) gives me a drop-down list of past "explain your changes" entries that included similar wording. Since many of my changes follow a similar pattern ("unsourced template" or "baptism record", to name two), that makes it pretty easy to enter the information.
@ Ellen .. that works for anyone using a browser with "form autofill" activated.  That doesn't necessarily make it easy to do with thumbs. doesn’t work, as far as I know, on browsers on mobile devices, on which some of us do a lot of our WT contributions. But maybe I am just tech-ignorant on this.
When I discuss browser behavior, I try to remember not to assume that any browser feature is universal. The browser I most commonly use here is Firefox running under Windows 10.  It was the one I was using when I posted earlier, and I checked its behavior just before posting. I just checked my phone browser (Google Chrome for Android) and confirmed that it also remembers my past "explain your changes" entries.
+8 votes
I tend to save my changes every 2 or 3 times entries, because I have accidently exited profiles and lost several inline refs because I got distracted while updating a large number of refs.

When I change the focus of my edits, I will put in an explanation when I start the new area, but if I am adding the links to people, I'll put it in once, and save it several times because of the above.

You shouldn't have to put a reason every time you correct a typo, IMHO

by Roy Lamberton G2G6 Mach 3 (30.7k points)
When I correct a typo and remember to add an edit summary (that doesn't always happen), I usually start typing "ty" in the box and my browser offers to finish the summary as "typo fix" (or something similar that I've used dozens of times before).
+15 votes
I suppose that all the people voting Yes to this change are meticulous genealogists who already comment every change they do, so for them it's not much of a change in habits.

But on WikiTree there's a huge mass of contributors outside the tiny core of G2G Pilots and Wonderful WikiTreers, who may not take kindly to a change so disruptive to their work flow. I suspect that if this change is enforced, people outside of the G2G echo chamber will stop contributing to WikiTree in droves.
by Leif Biberg Kristensen G2G6 Mach 5 (58.3k points)

Agree on all points, Leif. Especially "the G2G echo chamber". Well said! As noted in the overall 'NO' answer above by a colorful and clever analysis:  "When PITA Factor outweighs Enjoyment Factor — people LEAVE (and don't usually return). Also as noted there; this is simply another instance of "the tail wagging the dog"

In the big picture, IMHO, this is another in a string of recent 'fixes' that can most pleasantly be characterized as solutions in search of a problem....categories, children/spouses on PPP etc... Items that affect a small minority of profiles/wiktree'rs but get all the headlines. 

Meanwhile the 'small' things like fixing the default to NOT be 'primary' on image uploads which I would assume affects the overwhelming majority of us or doing some of the oft mentioned tweaks that would make the site more approachable for non-English speakers and might help connect us to our international brethren or....... seem to always be on the back burner.

I've got a technical/engineering background and learned early on that the KISS principle should not just be paid lip service. The goal/direction should be to simplify, streamline and make the experience here more smooth and intuitive. Not to over-complicate and become rule/regulation bound because of the dislikes of a vocal minority.

The constant nagging by the system when you belong to a culture that do not use middle names the way the Americans do is another thing that should be mentioned here. I don't think that "there is more than one name in the First name field" was there when I started three years ago.

Although there have been some helpful innovations, like the ref tag and the category picker introduced in the edit bar, the interface is, overall, getting less and less friendly in its tone.

I have started looking for an alternative - unfortunately it is hard to find one.
And then there's the constant orange banner whenever you're doing Pre-1700 work, making me wonder if I'm doing something bad. I liked the praise for making high-level contributions that was there when I started in spring 2018 a lot more.

In my opinion, a manually approved (and revokable) test for doing Pre-Napoleonic genealogy would be a far better solution.
Ah yes, the orange pre-1700 banner. I think a lot of people misunderstand it and think it will go away if they join a project.

The admonitions aimed at me from the interface makes me feel like a naughty child, rather than a mature, responsible and fairly experienced genealogist.

BTW, I agree that pre-Napoleonic makes more sense to me as a limit than pre-1700.
+7 votes
Yes, I support this change with the exception of profiles managed by the member.
by David Selman G2G6 Pilot (762k points)

I completely agree with you over excluding the profile manager from this requirement but that means you don't support the proposed change!

Exactly, Matthew!
+7 votes
I'm still relatively new here, but my two cents is that I absolutely love WikiTree just as it is, I love that it offers us many opportunities to be extra courteous and encourages us to do so. When I make a noticeable or significant change in a profile I always try and write something for the profile managers and Trusted List folks. But I would be so much better at it if the field were down at the bottom of the page near the Save Button below because I always Preview my changes before saving and all too often I have that "Doh!" moment when I save and then realize I forgot to go back up and explain. Or a prompt when hitting the Preview or Save Button would be great too! I do think that would help us newcomers get into it as a consistent habit right off.
by Colleen Griffin G2G6 (7.2k points)

But I would be so much better at it if the field were down at the bottom of the page near the Save Button below because I always Preview my changes before saving and all too often I have that "Doh!" moment when I save and then realize I forgot to go back up and explain.

This is part of the proposal - "Repeat the field below the text editing section so that it appears twice on the profile editing page." This way it will be right below the Preview and Save buttons at the bottom so we don't "forget" about it.

Or a prompt when hitting the Preview or Save Button would be great too! I do think that would help us newcomers get into it as a consistent habit right off.

You can set a flag to remind you to input an edit summary at Special:Preferences. Click on Edit, then select the last checkbox on the page and save.

Anytime you save a page, it will check and see if you entered in an edit summary. If not, you can add one in and save.

Thanks so much for your kind tip, Steve!
+6 votes

Having had some time to think about this issue, NO, I do NOT support this action because THIS WOULD TURN AN OPTION INTO A REQUIREMENT -- the explanation field would REQUIRED and just how are is this REQUIREMENT going to be ENFORCED

Will I be unable to save the work I did? Unless and until I dropped some pearly words into The Box (the explanation field)? 

Will there be a new Suggestions Error such as YOU FORGOT TO EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DID ? 

Only advantage I can see is that it MIGHT, if a REQUIREMENT, slow down the Marathon folk if they had to stop there long enough to enter some pearly words. And then again it might not, a bit of copy&paste on their part and off they go ... 

Frankly I also do not see the point of having The Box show up twice. If there is a concern about raising costs by saving frequently, then would that not also require saving ONCE AGAIN and raise the cost that much more? Hello? 

by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (151k points)

Will I be unable to save the work I did?

In short, yes that is how it would work. When you tried to save, you would see a warning popup that you forgot to enter in an explanation. I am assuming this would be similar to how you get notified if you try to add a category to a profile that does not yet exist.

Frankly I also do not see the point of having The Box show up twice. 

The "repeated box" would be a secondary option so you do not have to scroll up to get to the existing edit summary box.

If there is a concern about raising costs by saving frequently, then would that not also require saving ONCE AGAIN and raise the cost that much more? Hello? 

This is the same as having two save buttons on the profile - it requires nothing extra from you or the server and would not require multiple saves.

So, Steve, now deal with Enforcement. What will WT do to force me to enter a comment? Where there is a requirement, a Law, there is also a punishment for failure to comply. 

You won't be able to save unless you fill in the requred comment field. See how it works when you merge people, where the comment already is mandatory.
As Lief said, you will just not be able to save the change without an edit summary (such as the merge example).

angry let's see, ENFORCEMENT then will be that the PM cannot SAVE any activity UNLESS the PM enters a comment into The Box. 

Well, I knew that would be the only way to ENFORCE compliance.   

crying I can see that a fairly substantial number of PM - those who save frequently, at the very least -- would have to alter their method of profile creation and development if this <impolite word> alteration is implemented. 

Wonder how that will affect the loading of gedcoms? Never loaded one myself and I've seen what results -- if this alteration is implemented that activity of CLEANING them is going to very nearly dry up. Along with Marathon activity, which will end up dragging along. 

Unintended consequences will be lively if this is implemented

+7 votes
No. For starters I don't want to comment my own profiles. Maybe for others, but people will just put junk or insufficient text in there and you'll need to look at the change log anyway.

Currently for my own profiles I always look at the change log.

It's true some novice users don't know how to look at the change log and get worried when they see a change but that is a different issue.
by Mark Dorney G2G6 Mach 2 (25.7k points)
+10 votes
My thoughts are, I can only type so much in a day due to my physical limitations, so being forced to type something "meaningful" instead of just "bio updated" would add a burden to me, physically, which would result in pain. This has to be avoided, so the amount I type per day would stay the same, just that more of it would be in explaining and less in contributing.

N.B. I'm not going to type a description of everything I add to a bio because it is self-descriptive in the changes log. If I described the contents of the 1861 census for the person and their household in the bio, it's covered by "1861 census added, bio updated" If I then go on to tweak that, add more detail or reword, I just put "bio updated" and don't see how being more descriptive makes anyone more interested. They are either interested in the bio for the named person or not.

This thread needs pinning to the top as I had to search to find it.
by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (207k points)
+6 votes
I vote yes. Simply because it's disrespectful to think an explanation is not needed.

An explanation is taking ownership.
by Eileen Bradley G2G6 Mach 1 (17.3k points)
I agree that it shows respect to make an explanatory comment when you edit profiles with others on the trusted list, and that it is disrespectful not to do so.

When there is a screaming red banner reminding you to fill in that explanatory field if you should forget - which will be what happens when this change is implemented - I think that quite reduces the value of explanations as a token of respect. They will be more like a sign of submission to "the computer".
It shouldn't be necessary for WikiTree to use "screaming red banners" to alert people to their failure to add an edit summary. When I fail to add an edit summary at Wikipedia, the banner I see has a plain white background. WikiTree also could create a banner that doesn't scream.

But they usually are red in WikiTree for checks where there is no SAVE ANYWAY button.

I'm with Eva, except I don't believe that the color or other presentation details actually matter in this.

Yes, in many circumstances, the polite thing to do is to leave an explanation of what changes I've made. If I go around making changes just for the sake of making changes, that's disrespectful of other WikiTreers and fails to follow the Honor Code.

Requiring such an explanation is disrespectful of me. It effectively throws the whole question of manners and the Honor Code right out the window, and reduces WT to a land of red tape and bureaucracy where the computer is in absolute control. That is not an environment where I would be likely to stick around.

As I wrote somewhere already: required explanations would be a good way to preserve some choice four-letter words for posterity in the change logs. They would also be an excellent way to drive many good people away from WikiTree.

When I joined Data Doctors  I saw how how thorough most of the members were with their explanations and rule number one was "always leave an explanation." I quickly learned why. So ya im pretty weird about it. I know my a-thon numbers would have been much much higher the last three years if I had skipped the explanation and only added one source (which I finally figured out this year most everyone does) after the first one hundred I added. As far as high contribution numbers I've seen people do something similiar to deleting a source, add the source back, and delete the source on the same profile then onto the next to rack up contributions. Yes, It certainly will be interesting.
+4 votes
Chris, I think this is probably a good idea. I am one of those people who often don't put an explanation -mostly because I'm on a profile I manage. However, it means that when I'm on a challenge or a profile managed by someone else, I may forget and that causes more work for others. -NOT my intention. That said, it will be interesting to see how those 1000/month badges change if people aren't saving every two seconds. I personally started saving more often after I lost over an hours' worth of sourcing and bio writing. I know better, and I was furious with myself for doing that!

I tend to work like @MindySilva describes below without those handy "favs" Mindy, I would love an explanation on how you do that. Macros? Or do you just type really well? LOL! I'm dreadful and won't likely get better. My numbers are never gonna be great because my keyboard skills aren't as good as I'd like them to be. It would be nice to have a drop down menu of selections to make it easier and more concise. Something like what we see when we do corrections from our suggestion list. That would help standardize so we all know what we'll see from the change, and it will make it faster and easier to do the right thing.
by Lisa Linn G2G6 Mach 4 (45.4k points)

If you haven't checked out Clipboard Pro, check out this G2G about browser saving common explanations.

Thanks Linda!
+3 votes

Earlier I commented in support of this change, and I identified a couple more technical changes that I would like to accompany this new feature. Briefly, they were:

1. Make it easy to navigate from the warning banner to the explain-your-changes box.

2. Add a "Show Changes" preview feature to the the Edit page.

There's an additional technical change that would enhance the value of change histories and reduce that time that some of us expend in reviewing them, with or without this proposed requirement:

3. Add links on every profile to the more technical version of the profile's change history, meaning pages like this one. That version of the change history indicates the size of the page after each edit which helps identify the more substantial edits (the ones that caused big increases or decreases in page size). It also has radio buttons that can be used to see the changes that occurred between any two versions of the page -- those radio buttons can be very helpful in reviewing a change history; for example, for showing the net effect of the changes made by a user who accumulated a couple dozen edits in a brief time by making frequent saves. That page also documents some types of changes that don't appear in WikiTree's standard change history (for example, that history I linked to describes marriage edits, such as "Marked Margaret LeFevre and Jan van Etten as married while adding Margaret LeFevre as mother to Sarah VanEtten"). These technical change histories don't substitute for the WikiTree-standard change history (for the page I linked to, that's this history), which is more user-friendly and which displays the edit summary the user created; rather, they add value to it. The addition of links to the technical change history would save users like me the trouble of having to put the link into my browser's URL bar, and it would make many other users aware of a feature that might be helpful to them, if only they knew it existed.

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1m points)
+6 votes
Under the current proposal of must add an explanation for every change, I have voted no.

However, after thinking about it some more, I think it should be a requirement to add an explanation when making changes to profiles managed by projects.

We should be encouraged to add an explanation when making changes to profiles managed by others.

I don't think it should be a requirement to add an explanation when making changes to profiles we manage ourselves unless we co-manage it with someone else.
by Charlene Newport G2G6 Mach 1 (10.5k points)

Related questions

+39 votes
4 answers
+5 votes
1 answer
+49 votes
16 answers
+2 votes
1 answer
87 views asked May 1, 2019 in Policy and Style by Lisa Linn G2G6 Mach 4 (45.4k points)
+6 votes
2 answers
+6 votes
13 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright