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)
95+% of the edits I make are on profiles for which I am the only PM.  Explanations add little value for most of these changes.

This is the first I've heard that frequent saves are burdensome to the Wikitree backend.  But is it really desirable to inhibit even small improvements?  Many times I'll see a single letter typo and correct it immediately.  Does Wikitree really want to discourage these kinds of changes because it's not worth it?

It happens enough already that people lose valuable information when some technical glitch happens between saves.  Not saving often enough will increase the frequency of this problem.

This policy seems designed for those popular profiles where many people are editing, but those are a fairly small percentage of all profiles.  Regarding encouraging courtesy and collaboration, is there a technical way to require explanations only when editing a profile where you are not the sole PM?
While explanations are often very helpful, they are usually unnecessary.  When I am working on my immediate family or even on my own profile, no one really cares but me.  When I am working on my own free space pages, I would be writing useless notes to myself.  Many of my edits amount to typo changes or very minor formatting adjustments - I would not want to be forced to write an explanation every time I add a comma.

From a very practical standpoint, I have gone 45 consecutive months with 1000 contributions.  It takes time to scroll to the explanation box, type something out, scroll to the save... it takes longer than you think.  If it takes as little as 15 seconds, I will be spending 4-6 hours per month doing nothing but filling out the explanation box.

Sure, this can be a practice which is strongly encouraged, but as a hard rule I would find it annoying, discouraging and burdensome.
No, I definitely don't support this change, when you are building a bio from scratch and have lots of data to put in, and consult your various sources in sequence rather than all at once, you HAVE TO save periodically to ensure your work is not lost.  Not saving regularly can lead to a whole segment of your work gone up into the ether.  It has happened to me often enough to warrant saving in sections.

Since I do lots of bios and translate them also, I don't see the point of entering a blurb about what I did each time I save.  I enter a general explanation when I start, if only the word ''bio'', and usually on those I translate I will enter ''translating'' as explanation when I start that part.  But having to enter things over and over again is just plain aggravating.  When you find data in a source that wasn't on the profile, you add it, and carry on with research.  I certainly don't leave the work unsaved in such instances.

I have seen some people who enter the tiniest minutest change they made into this box as explanation, making a long song and dance of things.  That indeed should be discouraged, when it is done repetitively on the same profile.

One thing I would like to see changed is the automaticity on last names when entering a new profile.  Right now, if you create a new profile, the parent's name you are starting from will be automatically be entered for a child, even when you are starting with the mother to add.  When Current last name is different from LNAB for a parent, the program picks CLN to give to a child.  Nope, doesn't work.  Can we simply let that box be mandatory fill-in but without the program generating a name please?
I am in favour of adding the fields in the way proposed. I am not in favour of making it compulsory to add an explanation to all changes to profiles, including typos. As Joe says, for those of us who do a large volume of edits, the time involved would total hours a month. And what is the point where it is a profile I have created and which I am building up, or for a profile of which the sole manager is either myself or a Project of which I am leader?

I have just substantially rewritten the bio of a Magna Carta Surety Baron. I posted a comment on the profile about this. I did this over several days in stages, with lots of saves as I got diverted onto other things. Had I been required to add explanations at every save, it would have been something like "continuing to work on profile". Not exactly informative. That would be fairly typical where I rewrite a profile, or turn a skeleton profile into one with a full bio. I put a general comment on the profile, and then just go ahead, gradually doing the rewrite, after giving any other profile managers a chance to get involved. If explanations are compulsory, I would not give a precise explanation of every edit.

I am afraid I am likely to continue to save changes quite often. I have too much experience of losing editing changes because of technical glitches, an accidental error on my part, or an interruption which makes me forget to save later.

I would be strongly opposed to requiring explanations of changes to freespace pages. But I do not think that is being suggested. Most of the freespace pages I deal with are either for the Projects I lead (and often to help with the management of the project, keeping Project membership and activity info up to date, and things like that) or pages I have created myself. There would be no advantage in requiring explanations of changes.
I often work on profiles that are not mine, but unsourced ones. There are times when I find unsourced parents with a bunch of unsourced children. Ok, so I start sourcing, ideally with the marriage of the parents. 1 edit per person for the parents profiles. Then each of the (imagined) 8 children has its baptism entry. They get everybody 1 edit to copypaste the baptism entry citation. BUT the parents also get everybody all 8 citations. Now you want to tell me I have to type 24 times: "Added baptism entry for child (John, James, Henry, Mary, Anna, Catherine whatever)"? Are you kidding me? Sorry but this adds a ton of more workload for the sourcerers whose changes are obvious.
The explanations you people give for your votes against are much the same as mine - and very well expressed. I initially wrote a comment instead, because I wasn't sure what I was voting on. Now that I see your explanations, I understand that a vote against is a vote against the policy making the explanations compulsory, so i cast my vote here.
Many of the edits I do are minor edits, formatting, consolidating sources, correcting typos.  Any major revision I always add an explanation or reason.  Also when I am just cleaning up gedcom it is tedious to write explanations with every save.
Like others who have commented here, I work almost exclusively alone on WikiTree: I created every profile on my watchlist, and I'm the only profile manager on every single one. I don't relish the thought of being required to write notes to myself at every save.

Also, if you make people jump through too many hoops, they'll get angry, and start typing gibberish (or worse, four-letter words) as their explanations.

It has bugged me right from the start that simply saving your work increments your contributions. It presents me with directly conflicting motivations: saving often, because computers crash, and never saving until the end, because an artificially inflated contribution count feels dishonest and stupid. Would it be possible to save the text whenever the button is pushed, but only update the contributions and the change log when we exit edit mode? I could even live with a required explanation field at that point, as a signal that this will increment the counter and update the log.
While I am in favor of the concept in principle, as proposed I have negative feelings about too many of the details that tip the scale to my being against it.

I would be a "yes" vote if the explanation entry were changed to include a selection list of common reasons, i.e., fixed typo, added source, changed data, added to biography, changed formatting, etc., which would be in addition to the text field where something that did not fit one of the choices could be entered.

If it were only required for non-managers of the profile being changed, that would be sufficient for me to vote yes even without the additional selection list to make it easier for users.

As to the frequent saves, I am one of the culprits who does this and will continue to (always including detailed explanations of changes to profiles I do not manage).  I have had too much waste of my valuable time and effort when a glitch either on WikiTree's server or in the transmission path between my computer and the server causes the loss of a lot of work.  As Willem suggested, there are ways to mitigate the extra resources required to maintain audit trails and I feel strongly that, when efforts are made to conserve either resources or software maintenance, they are done with no consideration of the unnecessary time and effort burden placed on volunteers, as if these are of no value.
Thank you, Chris, for raising this topic for the WikiTree Community.  Like others here, I am torn between understanding the need for explanations for significant changes, especially when other members are involved, and my opinion that any positive change or addition to a profile is better than leaving errors, just because they are minor or I am busy.  I think I would support something slightly altered like

1) Only Changes with an Explanation will "count" as a contribution to WikiTree - many newer members, probably those who give the least explanations, nonetheless seek recognition in the 100 or 1000 contributions badges... This would encourage them to add explanations while leaving minor corrections, more-often made by experienced members, who do not care so much for badges, able to correct small items and go on.


2) Only require explanations for changes made to profiles you do NOT manage.  While no one "owns" profiles, like most of us I feel we should explain changes made when the profile is managed by others but it can seem a burden if I must explain everything I do on family profiles I create and manage myself.  Explaining to other managers encourages collaboration, a key part of WikiTree; to yourself, not so much, although if significant, I still do add something "for the record" when it's not my immediate family.

3) I regret to state it but I will continue to "save" changes perhaps more-often than average because my 5+ year-old computer does crash, especially if I must leave the room temporarily, so I Save my work and then return.  I don't think I do this frivolously but creating & writing profiles with good sources takes time and interruptions - like the phone on the opposite side of the room - often can't be foreseen.  If this really adds to costs, let me know and I will rethink my biography style to a more-bullet-type that is faster.  Thanks for the "heads up" but I believe this is a separate issue.

4) I do support mandatory explanations to Any changes made to PPP profiles since they are already singled out as controversial or more-important.
I pretty much agree with most of what has already been said.

I'm one who will, at times, make frequent saves due to previous loss of hours of work.  (Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to this more than once.)  I will likely continue to do so.

If I see an error, even a misplaced comma, or an extra s where it doesn't belong, I will correct it.  This makes for saves for little things, but grammar is grammar and correct spelling should be used.

I would not like to have to do the explanation every. single. time. I upload an image—and add text for it—to my space page/s.

I try, really hard, to write up everything in a text document before I begin, so I can do a single save for everything .. but that doesn't always work.  There is always that one typo that escaped notice because it's not an incorrect spelling as such, but is as used.  Even re-proofreading using the preview pane doesn't always catch those.  Sometimes it needs a break from looking at the same words over and over before you see what's wrong.  Sometimes it will be a while after the text was entered that I return to re-review, but errors need to be corrected whether immediately, or days/weeks/months later.

My thoughts on this are similar to those already expressed by other people.

I already add an explanation whenever I change a profile that is not managed by me. When I make these types of changes they always have a purpose that is easy to explain and understand, like "Added baptism record and 1871 census". I have no objection to making an explanation required when editing a profile that is not managed by the person making the change.

I never add an explanation when changing a profile that I manage. Most of the time the explanation would be completely unhelpful both to me and anybody else, like "Made it look better" or "Changed GEDCOM import to my preferred style". Adding comments like these would just be a waste of time with no obvious benefit. I oppose making an explanation required when editing a profile that is managed by the person making the change.

As someone who is constantly fixing templates and categories on profiles, often with dozens a day to do, I don't always take the time to explain those changes, and I don't want to be required to do so.

If I edit a profile in other ways (dates, etc) and it is not a profile I manage, I DO leave an explanation and will continue to do so. I don't see the need to leave an explanation on a profile I manage.

I'd be all for it for pre-1700 profiles, though (except categories and templates.)
Exactly what Gaile said!  A drop down selection list of the most common explanations, and primarily for those who are not the profile manager, etc.

I too save often, learned it early when desktops became standard office equipment.  Now retired, live in Texas rural area and internet and electricity going out for a moment is a fairly common thing, in fact just lost internet connection for a couple of minutes about an hour ago.

Makes me wonder if it might not have a dampening effect on things like biography editing.
I don't support this change. The Change Log already contains ample documentation on every comma that's been added or removed in the Biography.

The UX on this site is bad enough already, particularly for non-Anglophones, if not yet another constraint would be implemented to make it even more cumbersome. I'd have to seriously reconsider my commitment to WikiTree with such a change.
I don't support this change and have similar thoughts to Leif. I already find WikiTree cumbersome and time-consuming but I persevere as I like the strong focus on sourcing and accuracy. If I was forced to explain every single little change I make to a profile it would slow me down further and fewer profiles will get improved. I would then question if it's worth spending my time here.

Agree with most all the points already made. This may add value in perhaps 1-5% of edit situations and creates a relatively worthless time burden and an extremely high PITA factor for the other 95-99%. 

Simple common sense and common courtesy among adults should be enough to dictate when a comment is the right thing to do to save an edit. 

Wikitree has already reached a point where my 'invited-cousins' fall-off rate is TOO HIGH! I work hard to get them here. Then they try out the website; find it too cumbersome, too un-intuitive, too time consuming etc... and they go elsewhere to continue their adventure.

I don't fully support the change, but I see the logic behind it.  Like so many others have said, the PM shouldn't be required to explain a change.  It would be too time consuming, especially when setting up new profiles.  But, everyone else should leave an explanation.

Further review of this topic leads me to conclude that this requirement is meant to bypass or is essentially in lieu of one of the most fundamental facets that attracted me to wikitree in the first place; COLLABORATION. (Which cannot truly exist without communication.)

I have quietly been watching as a number of my distant cousins with abilities and research skills far surpassing my own have been refining and fine-tuning the details on our common ancestors. They have used not only the 'explanation of changes' box but in these instances have taken ample opportunity to have a more meaningful, much easier-to-follow-the-'conversation' use of the grey comment boxes. 

My tenth great grandfather William Tilton

My 9th great grand uncle, Samuel Tilton

The common sense use of all the tools available at wikitree and the common courtesy shown among themselves and to 'side-line-observers' like me is what wikitree should be about---not some one-size-fits-all rules and hyper-regimented requirements meant to fix a small minority of issues but that really imposes additional mouse-clicks, typing and time to the majority of us while adding no value whatsoever. 

I have to add my voice to those who don’t want to explain every time I make a little change to my own profile. I add explanations when I add something to profiles others manage (unless it’s been virtually abandoned years ago and I’m the only one working on it.)

Honestly if I had to do that for every change on my profile I’d probably just write ... or the bare minimum just to get it through. Seems like this change while well intentioned will cause more irritation than actual improvement

I also build from scratch  adding sources in sequence and use copy paste when I can. (such as adding children that are all born same place or categories when adding a whole family at one time) , you HAVE TO save periodically to ensure your work is not lost.  It would take way more time to add a new profile . Time I want to use on adding sources not comments, time that I would find irritating and probably do less on Wiki. 

'Explain your changes' should remain optional, not mandatory.  Making it required would, in my opinion, discourage changes and collaboration.
Can see some reasons that it would be desirable, but then think of all the times I've lost the work, while adding sources or writing a biography, and now save after every addition so I don't have to start over.  Having to explain each addition or correction would certainly strain my brain, while trying to focus on the edits themselves.

Is a bit frustrating to read that my process of improving biography profiles, is considered an overload on the system.
I see both sides of this and some are positive and others are negative so I'm voting NO.

On my own managed profiles I don't see the value at all as 99% of them have no one else on the trusted list.

I think detailed explanations are not needed when fixing a simple typo, though I often just comment "typo fixed" and if whoever wonders what I did then they can simply look at the changes log.

As a "Data Doctor" I usually work on codes that others seem to avoid such as 821-825, 841-842, 861-863, 865 which all have to do with coding such as space before heading, missing brace, or unequal number equal marks, Then 610-166 & 640-641 are simply changing of case and maybe extending a place name following the drop down list. When I work on "gender" issue I do leave a comment. I have a whole listing by code of comments that I block copy as needed.

And when I see a whole series of profiles by the same manager with the same suggestion, I have a paragraph about using the suggestion list that I send them as a private message and about 50% of the time I get a thank you note back. My guess is the other 50% are managers that are no longer active as often those profiles haven't been touched since they were created more than 5 years ago.

And sometimes when "doctoring" when I am fixing the specific suggestion I see something else, like a typo, I simply fix it and don't do separate comments & saves as they will show in the changes log which I would guess is rarely looked at -- again as many of those profiles are probably "un-managed" by someone no longer active on WT.

Thus, my vote is NO for having to do it 100% of the time
I do not support this change as written. I mostly work on profiles that I manage and having to explain every single change no matter how trivial is time consuming and not relevant to others if I am just correcting wording in the  biography or typos, etc. I do save often if I am adding sources as I have lost those before when clicking back and forth between tabs to gather the information. Otherwise, I try not to save until I am finished with the trivial stuff.

For profiles that others manage but are in my line, I contact the PM first. On those, I agree that adding a brief explanation is in order.

Please, let's not add such a burden to all of our changes as  that would discourage the improvement of many profiles.
A drop-down list would save time and make the explanation  do-able.
I’m not on favor. Like many others, I do nearly all my Wikitreeing on a tablet.  With a small keyboard and fat fingers, my own many typos need several corrections and saves. And having several tabs open sometimes causes me to lose data I haven’t saved.  I do leave explanations when I edit others’ profiles, but don’t want to bother with my own.

PITA factor ???

In theory, the requirement to explain changes is good.  In practice, no.  

I am the only person who will ever see the vast majority of profiles I work on.  Most of my work is in creating new profiles, which I hope will help others find connections. Requiring an explanation for every change would be tedious and frustrating.  

That being said, I agree that it an explanation would help to understand what specific changes have been made. I just have no way of knowing whether anyone will ever see them, and for the most part I assume no one will.

I work hard to achieve my 1000 contribution points each month.  If this change goes into effect, I recommend having some badges for intermediate stages between 100 and 1000 contributions, as a reward for going through the tedium of explaining every change.

PITA factor ???

commented by Jo Gill


For those who don't understand PITA - Pain In The Another name for Donkey here (one that Americans regard as a rude word, so it gets censored on G2G (posts will be removed)) == Annoyance Factor.

When PITA Factor outweighs Enjoyment Factor — people LEAVE (and don't usually return). 

Ahhh ... thanks for the info and entertainment.  I'm following the discussion, but have not voted.  I cannot see the value in explaining "added Oxford comma" or sometimes "added Oxford coma."
I have already voted 'no', but let us consider that the impact of a rule change that could affect all of the participants in WikiTree.  At this time, there are over 140,000 signers of the basic one tree principal and our Honor Code.  Our leaders need to evaluate the risk of this type of change on the over all mission.  We work with sources, not comments on a revision.  With this poll we will probably see a participation of less than 1%, and opinions should be considered, but may not reflect the attitude of the masses.  Sure, we have made mistakes, and will make more in the future, but as long as we continue to follow the morals and ethics of the original philosophy, we do not need additional mandatory, time and effort restricting rules.  I continue to participate because of the goal, the challenge and the enjoyment of this project.  Excessive, somewhat irrelevant changes will drive people away from the interest in the project.
Additional comments:

If the problem to be solved is too many saves by people chasing contribution points, then wouldn't a better solution be to eliminate contribution counts, or change how they're calculated?

It seems this proposed policy is being driven by projects who have too many profiles to monitor, but that's a tiny fraction of Wikitree activity, so akin to the tail wagging the dog.  While it may be discourteous to not leave a note on another's actively managed profile, whether someone does or not, I'm going to check every single change made on one of 'my' profiles.  They can still have mucked something up even with a description of what they did.
And review can be done via the Change Tab. It even shows you where something was taken away or added, so you don't have to know by heart the whole profile. The idea of the must-do explanation is the worst idea since I am here.

I try to always explain my changes, but I'm not explicit. I just put something that will give a clue to folks seeing it in a feed about whether or not they want to look at what I did. So I wouldn't say I'd added an Oxford comma (which, as an aside, I do use, but don't add to someone else's writing if they don't [and, it SHOULD go without saying, but I see it too often in WikiTree - don't change the punctuation in quoted material... words within quotes should retain the punctuation as written, as nuances of use by country/time can change the meaning of the words]).

Anyway. Signposts... examples:

  • minor punctuation edit
  • aesthetics edit
  • edited Magna Carta Project section
  • added Research Notes re: birth year guess
  • interim save (computer crashing) ...sometimes just "interim save", as my computer is starting to give me much less time between hinting it's about to crash and actually crashing

I'm a fast typist, and I use a full keyboard (not phone keypad), so none of those take me long at all to add. However, I can see how the PITA factor would skyrocket if one were making a teeny change via your phone.

So maybe just required for pre-1500 profiles?

I originally supported this change, but now I don't.

After one day of testing I think it's much better to address the real issue here instead of just treating one of the symptoms in a way that would make the site much less workable. Please save diff versions and make navigation between diffs easier. I've tried not saving every "small change" but it seems so unnatural and unwise - please fix the saving method instead.

My first inclination was to say "yes" because it is nice to know when looking at the feed what was done to the profile. I've tried to get in the habit of recording my changes. However, I don't think making this mandatory is going to accomplish what you want it to accomplish. First, too many people will do just like they do with sources and write ambiguous, non-specific changes such as "edited" or "corrected," especially if one can't save often and the number of changes one made gets too lengthy. Second, I don't know if it's going to stop the "over-saving." I'm one of those who does save fairly often. (Learned the hard way that saving often before I've made too many changes is essential.) Perhaps a better way to prevent "over-saving" would be to have some kind of idea exactly what constitutes "over-saving" so I can self-monitor or to have some kind of built-in timer or counter which would prevent me from exceeding that threshold.
This is a tough one for me.  I work on a lot of profiles I don't manage, and seldom do I add a comment to the changes I make.  Perhaps I've pissed people off by not doing so--and yes, anybody with profiles I work on will receive a string of minor changes in their activity feed (because of my frequent saving). However, almost all of my edits are improvements--either adding more sources or else fixing typos.  On the obverse, when others make changes to profiles I manage, I don't expect to find a comment.  I guess I will vote "no" because of the generally collaborative spirit of Wikitree.  This is not Ancestry; seldom, if ever, have I found an erroneous edit made by other Wikitree contributor based on cutting and pasting from unsourced trees.  I trust you all--and of course I can always click and view the changes made.  The main reasons to vote "yes" seem to be to improve the activity feeds and/or simple courtesy.  This must be weighed against the PITA factor.   Also, changes are easily reversible.  If the occasional "bad" edit is discovered, it can always be reversed.  In my 2.5 years on this site, I've never encountered a change so egregious that it required a reversal.
I agree that we need to decouple edits to profiles managed by the person making the changes from other profiles in this proposal. I try to leave comments for other changes, but often don't when I am fixing a typo I didn't notice when I had just saved.  I do a lot of work with orphaned profiles so am probably a bit lax there as well. This won't stop me from making edits on profiles I don't manage but I can promise my notes will continue to be extremely standardized and not that specific. The only time I recall a question from a profile manager regarding a change it was really an explanation of ref tags and references. If I need to detail everything I do, my enthusiasm for adding sources to old profiles will decline.
I like the suggestion to have the explanation box closer to the save button because I sometimes forget to scroll back up to add my comment.  So that part I like but I just created some profiles with this question in mind.  I think having to explain every save when creating a profile is overkill.  It will make a hard job all the more difficult.  When I am creating a profile, it takes LOTS of edits and saves to finally get it to look like I want.  Having to explain every little change goes way beyond what is needed!

Oh, yikes, no. It's bad enough that I have to go in after building a profile and fix half a dozen typos or grammatical errors, but having a banner proclaiming the fact that eye cant tipe wurth beens for all the world to see would make those kinds of fixes even more humiliating! 

(Maybe make a compromise, and only count saves towards the Club 100 or Club 1000 badges if the explanation field isn't blank?)

  • Trivial changes aren't worth an explanation (typos, grammar)
  • Changes that are obvious, can be easily viewed in the Changes tab.
  • Most changes are obvious. See above.

If you force me to put in an explanation for every little thing, then be prepared for me to copy and paste "See the Changes tab for a description of the changes." on every single change that I do. And then you have to store that string along with every single change. 

Wikipedia does not force one to make a comment on every single change. Why should WikiTree be any different?

I think that this proposed policy is bad, because it is not proposed with the idea of helping users, but because you are trying to modify user behavior to control costs, which is the wrong way to go about it. Or at the very least you are conflating two different things, and trying to do them at the same time.

If all of these saves incur a cost to WikiTree, then I would be willing at this point to pay something to defray costs; a donation, a subscription fee, whatever.

This may come as a shock, but when working on profiles managed by others, I actually save more often for the express purpose of properly explaining my changes.  If I look for sources and find several, I will save each one separately, with explanation "added 18xx census", "added 18yy census", "added marriage", etc.

No. If I replace a missing comma, now I would have to explain it, and  I miss a lot of commas, so that would be a significant burden.
I can easily have 20-30 iterations in creating a profile. To have to provide an explanation every time I save would be horrific.

Enforcing an explanation when you're not a profile manager or on the trusted list seems reasonable.
I'm not really sure what purpose this would serve, other than to reiterate what can already be found in the change log. If I'm interested in what someone did, I want to look at it - not have them approximate what was done. What if I select "Fix typo" for any change I did, and then when I look at the changes, I fixed a typo, updated the biography, and added sources? It's impractical to expect someone to log every little change that was done that way, and many will just pick the easiest response to satisfy the requirement and move on, whether it's accurate or not. I'd rather not have this as a requirement.
I'm wondering if all the folks posting on why they don't like the idea are remembering to go click on the vote button to get their vote recorded. . . I'm sure comments will be considered but votes count too!

I do hope the powers that be will take into consideration the price of PITA.  Encourage explanation, move the button closer to Save but please don't make it a requirement for Saving at least not for pms creating a new profile!
Along these same lines, who will become the new change police? If I pick "typo" or put "typo" in every explanation, will someone follow along behind and give me a ticket for illegal change violation? I do get that the honor code sorta would cover this sort of thing, but it's just creating another thing to have to follow around and police up, and unless we incorporate required elements into our process and honor code somehow, it's just a useless effort. I'd rather not see us put something in that can be subverted or dodged, such that improper data can be input.
I don't support the change.  I spend a lot of time just finding sources for births/deaths/margs & adding Archival documents for life activities that have been archived, court records, notaries, land purchase or transfers, wills, etc.  When I go onto pages, & see any of these things missing, and I've found the docs, I'm usually putting the info onto the bio, then linking w/inline ref(s) to the sources.  If at the same time this requires a change of a b. or d. or mrg date I will usually save the major bio changes then go back and do the "basic infos at the top of the edit sections for the person their marg. children, etc, then hit the status buttons if need be. then save these things. If in the process of all of this I've already thought to fill in the "changes made-section" its already saved when I saved the bio changes..but if I changed anything else like b or d dates, etc then it means usually I've now on one profile- written into changes-section at least twice  & half the time I'm leaving out "created new paragraph in bio, fixed surname (typo) in bio, etc .. What is being discussed here sounds like I'm going to have to double up on what is already doubled up for me- I'll admit right now, I'm too busy offline to remember that now I'm going to have to save changes in more ways.. And I agree w/others If i go in and fix a word  "the" or a typo or just fix an alignment to make one sentence align with the rest of a page- the change is easily seen on the profile and if someone isn't sure... clicking the changes tab is what we are supposed to do.  I think maybe put up a question asking for feed back about reading and understanding Changes section- maybe this is what needs revamping- if the changes section is too hard for some to understand, maybe it is what needs fixing, so that ones that get confused by it, won't be confused and may be more willing to use it (could be part of the issue of why some aren't writing in changes- the box doesn't have much space in it, some times the abbreviations that some use for the changes they make can get a little intimidating and confusing.. for instance, someone puts in "+b, -d, Sup, " etc.. first time I saw something like this I was ..Huh?? I went into changes and birthdate was added, death date was changed but with that change had been added the record of the death and burial (written in French -thus the "Sup") but for anyone that is new, some  abbrev. can really confuse ( I don't mean standard abbrev like birth and death- just used as examples/ I mean personal use abbrev for things ppl do on profiles- each person has their own way of abbrev, when space is limited .  maybe a larger box is needed for the changes.

(ok, I just fixed typos and changed my words on this and saved...5 different times, just to make sure it made sense. lol)
I am strongly against this proposal in its current form.
I mostly create new profiles and only occasionally edit profiles managed by other people.
When creating new profiles I tend to work iteratively and build a profile over several hours/days as I find sources, fix typos, add categories, add images, etc.
I typically make 8-20 changes to a profile before I consider it done depending on how many sources I find.

However, when I edit a profile managed by someone else I always try to add a comment, but sometimes forget, so moving the comment box next to the save button is a good idea.

I would support making the comment box mandatory in the following circumstances:
1. Profile is OPEN
2. Profile has been in existence for more than ONE WEEK
3. Change is being made by someone who is not the profile manager or a member of the trusted list
OR Number of profile managers > 1

Ideally I would like there to be an option to have a profile in draft state which can then be published when it is ready (no more than one week later) so it does not appear in the activity feeds until the profile manager considers it worthy.

If this change is made as proposed I would definitely only enter the minimum mandatory text each time I saved a profile I manage which would defeat the purpose.
Gaile, I agree. I save more often when editing someone else's profiles so that I don't have too many types of changes mentioned in the explanation box. I like hitting 100 each month, but I don't save after every edit because I am focused on improving the profile, not building numbers. But when I am on an actively-managed profile, I slow down and save more often so I can accurately explain all of the edits I have made. With a required explanation, there will be more saved edits, not fewer.
I definitely don't think when I add a new profile or add to one that I manage adding a comment would be a productive change.  When I come across a profile that connects to one I  am working on that has no biography and limited sources,  I often find that the PM either 1. Is not active  or 2. Has added thousands of similar profiles and likely has no intention of returning to finish the job.   I usually send a private message about what I plan to do so they can have a look and contact me if they see a problem.   Most never reply  and the others sometimes thank me.  I have never had an issue with another user over a profile.   I sometimes spend days working on a profile that I  don't  manage to complete the sourced biography as completely as possible.   I will try to cut down on the number of saves .  I didn't realize that was a problem.   I always correct my own "suggestions " promptly.   If this is implemented I will just have to wait to see if it works for me or causes so much grief that I do less or quit.

JANIE -- Another Dumb Bunny question -- what is PITA -- 

I google & I get a "pocket" of bread which is stuffed with meat, veggies, whatever, and I am certain that kind of PITA has nothing to do with genealogy

Pain In The Derrièrre

PITA factor ???

commented by Jo Gill


For those who don't understand PITA - Pain In The Another name for Donkey here (one that Americans regard as a rude word, so it gets censored on G2G (posts will be removed)) == Annoyance Factor.

When PITA Factor outweighs Enjoyment Factor — people LEAVE (and don't usually return). 

Melanie, W. Robertson, ref to PITA -- I begin to realize I am so old that I have lost touch with my native language imbibed at my mother's mammary. 

The expression is probably older than pita bread has been known to the "western" world.  cheeky

I don't think you are quite that old.

Theoretically it's a pocket.  In reality, store-bought pitas never open properly.  This is just as well, because if you managed to stuff one and tried to eat it, juice or sauce or mayo would drip all over your clothes through the hole at the bottom until it all got too soggy and fell apart.  They're a right pain in the ykw.
RJ .. pls dnt cnfz Susan ne mr thn she alrdy is.

Melanie, RJ, ... well, I suppose the existence of a list of those 10's of 1000's of "forbidden words" BEING forbidden in g2g does have a salutary effect -- although I have noted that a number of participating PM have mastered the Gentle Arts of Insult and Sarcasm cast in positive and glowing terms ... 

Melanie, I actually AGREE with RJ on the ... <impolite word> mess you get with a store-bought pocket ... bitter experience being an impressive teacher ... never did get some of the stains out ... 

Susan,  I have to apologize for introducing the term into this discussion. I guess I was just exposing my geezerness by assuming the term was more universally understood blushlaugh

Note that pita or Pita would be the edible form and my less than accurate PITA should have been P.I.T.A. Maybe that would clarify? 

What's certainly clear to me is that Melanie's formula for increasing the P.I.T.A. factor for everyone of us every time we do a save to evidently punish some small % of wikitreers who may be gaming the contribution points system accurately indicates a significant decrease in pleasure for volunteering my time.

@ Nick .. when an initialism can be said as a word, it becomes an acronym — such as SCUBA, RADAR, SONAR, ANZAC.  When this happens, the fullstops are no longer needed.  PITA is usually* pronounced as a word (peet-ah), not as pee eye tee ay, so qualifies as an acronym and no fullstops.  cheeky  Besides, it works way better than PITN, or PITB, or PITD, or whatever other versions people might think up.



* Note: "usually" does not mean "always", as there will be those who DO use the pee eye tee ay way of saying it.

For that acronym list, Melanie, let's not forget the infamous one, born in the military, that has now morphed into an acceptable word to use in polite company - snafu.
I can see requiring an explanation on a profile of another PM but what about orphaned profiles? Or the ones I manage myself. I don't get notices of my own edits and anyway I think my memory is still good enough to remember what I did to a profile I manage within the last few days. I'm working on a One Place Study, so I go through a birth record book, then a marriage record book, then a death record book resulting in 1. profile with birth information created and saved, later 2. marriage entered and saved, repeat 2. for however many marriages that person had (just added the fourth to one of my profiles), and finally 3. enter death record and save. All within a few days, sometimes hours, and with mostly me as the only PM or trusted list member with notices going nowhere.

Helmut, if you are doing this entry work over several days, one can suppose that "frequently saving" is not a term that applies to your method.

"Frequently saving" generally means 

1. I create the profile, and add a source as per. Then I SAVE. 

2. In a matter of a few minutes, I next go to familysearch and enter the profile's name looking for census, birth, death, marriage, divorce, military registration / service. IF I locate something, I enter Edit mode, and c&p the transcript, and the familyseach citation. AND SAVE, in the event of interruption of www service or necessity (at home). 

3. Back to what I locate in familysearch, grab another bit of info, repeat. which includes SAVE

By consequence of this I may end up using SAVE as much as five or six or more times in a matter of 30 or so minutes. 

4. HAVING the info in the Biography now require making it READABLE, so BACK INTO EDIT mode, and the use of * and : and _| and SAVE frequently for the very same reasons as above. By consequence I may SAVE as much as another 4, 5, 7 times.

5. I proofread, and if necessary, edit for corrections and this again will require SAVE

If I must enter a comment each and every freaking time I will soon very soon be freaking. 

That's my current "style", method, etc. IF I must contend with a mandatory explanatory comment 

Granted I have several variations of an option to do any and all other info collection and editing on a note pad of some brand, get it "together" and then back to the profile and do a c&p and SAVE. That would be only TWO SAVES 

Another option is having the first SAVE and thence to familysearch for documents, I can limit myself to merely adding the citation of the records held by familysearch, placing those into SOURCES, and then SAVE. That would still mean only TWO SAVES.  Under this option (no transcripts) there's will be "nothing" in Biography. BUT there would be supporting citations for the assertions made in the creation of the profile (name, birth, death, marriage, etc) -- future readers, if any, can go look 

I suppose under this latter option some BioBuilder looking for a Task can open the citations capture the info and create a biog and kudos to THEM, but having heard from some few of them THEY ARE ALSO frequent savers. 

IF SAVING MONEY BY NOT SAVING FREQUENTLY is the goal, one can imagine the barren wilderness of a number of profiles bereft of any content in the Biography? Not that there are not many of them at WT anyway. 

BUT you never know, someone might decide to be a feckless spendthrift and "have at it" ... 

enlightenedHelmut if my use of my mother's language is confusing you CAN ask for clarification. "Have at it" would indicate going into action. You can google the phrase feckless spendthrift, I have, it's quite interesting and it has a History. 

I am against this. It will slow down writing and will add explanations that most people won’t read. As others have said, the Changes section is enough,

Well, I wish it was just required on other people's profile's. I'm trying to add rich biographies with inline citations that, in some cases, have 50+ sources. I've lost my work clicking on the wrong thing all too often. Every few sentences or citations, I save. That, in itself, is a chunk of work. I'm not trying to get points, although they happen. I still haven't reached that 1000k points per month badge (just sayin).

If I'm on someone else's managed profile, then it seems polite and helpful to at least state what I did (even though you can see it in the changes section).

If this really is an effort to reduce costs, I think perhaps that has to do with business/organizational strategy and perhaps, thoughts around other ways to generate funding might be needed. Creating extra steps in a system that I'm voluntarily adding data too, seems not ideal. Although, we both (WikiTree and I) benefit from the relationship.

Just my 2c.

Kind Regards,


Why cant we just use a shorthand term  for the same repeated explanation or just use cut and paste  if its lengthy?  Of course this would probably open up a new can of worms with endless arguements about what would be acceptable shorthand,  etc etc.  Some of this just seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill.  wikitree it seems to me is getting more  and more tedious and harder to navagate.  I already get lost in trying to figure out the rules and where to find or post information relevant to what i am working on.  Then  I find myself sifting thru all these comments made by "Sheldons" of the Big Bang Theory analyzing something  to death and I feel a headache coming on,  at which point I leave wikitree and turn on netflix.

Thank you, Joy, for mentioning "standardized explanations" -- I'm thinking I would love a pull-down menu of these explanations ... 

Pretending NOW I'm trying to describe what I DO when I edit -- let's see, if I add info and its source, that's "profile development".  I guess that would force someone to go into the Changes Log and find out what that meant? But it DOES describe what I DID.  

Then there's "edit typo" -- well that's what I DID but only the really curious are going to open the Changes Log to see what happened. Hmm.  But if I added punctuation, corrected punctuation, removed some should not be there, that's what I DID. Or if I corrected the spelling of some word in the biog. And when I'm tired enough, and there's a few I typed rather than copy&pasted, spelling hides from me. 

Then there's "edit biog" which is just the text section -- I might fancy it up by arranging material in sections (Biog, Birth and Death, and maybe an Obituary, andt then Military, Marriage, Census, and if necessary Research Notes) 

Then there's "edit sources" where I added bling ( * ) as suggested to each source, makes it l'look more professional" and it's in the Manual of Style, recommended. Or I might expand the F.A.G. citation to the Accepted Format. Or I might have located the URL for a line citation of a source so I add that ...

Then on a really bad day when I don't feel up to much but what to be productive, there's correction to locations -- adding ", United States" or changing "USA" to "United States" or occasionally correcting the location entirely because I found the birth record / death record. So I could say "corrected location", because that's what I DID. The curious can open the Changes Log to find out which one was corrected. 

I'm pretty sure the purists among us would want to see "changed birth / death location" or "corrected location spelling" or "expanded source" or "added URL" or "added bling" or "re-arranged biog material" or .... which would be a bit more informative, yes, can't disagree with that. Hmm. BUT with a pull down menu of Accepted Terms of Explanation, .... 

Then there's that side-issue of 1) disk space and 2) frequent saving and 3) costs which were all connected in one part of the PROPOSAL ... tied to Forced Explanations (meaning if I do NOT explain, I can't SAVE my work) 

OF course there's work-arounds -- I can do all this stuff on a note pad and then copy&paste it into the Big Box, add the explanation and Save without falling into the sin of frequent saving.  That sin, looming over my shoulder, is going to make me anxious. How much is too much? 

Of course, in order to NOT have to re-enter and make corrections, on NEW PROFILES, I have to proofread, take my time doing so with my full attention, and I can agree with the purists if I DO that to start with, I won't have to re-enter -- and sin again with "frequent saving". 

Humans are adaptable, I'm human, so I could adapt myself to this if it is Required. That it might well slow down my daily productivity, and it probably will, but that's the breaks. I might even develop some OCD traits or tendencies.  

I'm almost certainly not going to be "fixing" any profile not my own -- not if I have to ONCE AGAIN examine every profile I do have.  And it's almost certain I will have to . I have almost completed round 3rd, think it is, bringing the profiles I manage up to spec. 

Susan, it's really  not a difficult thing to add a brief explanation. As I said elsewhere, my browser stores comments I frequently use so I only have to start typing them. I have been adding such comments for a while now, the exceptions are on freespace pages where there is no box and on newly created profiles where I tend to write the bio immediately after creation. It would not be a great hassel to add a brief explanation in those cases.

Why not do as Chris suggests try it for a few days and then come back and comment ?  Did it really slow you down?

Adding explanations is of value not so much to the person making the edits but  to others who have an interest in the profile . These might be other project members, members interested in the locality  or the surname and yes those who take on the job of trying to spot 'vandalism'.  

 I don't understand your remark about reducing productivity, will you really do less ?  Do you measure 'productivity' by the number of  saves or contribution points ? Such a crude measure doesn't measure value added (I'd like to get rid of them but that's another matter)
My thing is that I don't WANT to have to write always an explanation. 1. It's often obvious what I did (sourcing a profile). 2. There is a Changes Tab that shows EVERY SINGLE CHANGE to a profile. If you are this interested in the changes then have a look there.

When for some projects or interests  there may be hundreds of changes within a short period, it helps not to have to open every profile just to find that someone has added a blank space (It happens), a category or fixed a typo. It also helps when following a changes tab if the changes are labelled. It just takes a couple of seconds but helps others as outlined in Robin's original post proposing the change

Deleted - posted to wrong answer (this discussion is getting too busy for an old woman like me).
I think the issue is that it will be one more enforced rule for some control freak to harass ordinary WikiTreers over. Dedicated WikiTreers will look at the changes to see what has been changed if they are really interested. We are not lazy, just busy ... and independent thinkers and doers who don't need middle managers monitoring our compliance with rules that are unneessary.

Well, Helen, the overall effect was to slow me down, yes, if not by some uber-significant amount. And I take exception at your paragraph saying "I don't understand your remark ... " mostly because up to that paragraph you had sounded reasonable. 


IMHO, you and other supporters of this proposal fail to see the big picture. As many, if not most, of the opposers of this policy have stated--there ARE situations where an explanation is not only a good thing to do, but may be necessary and in some instance could even be mandatory. However, for most of us, the overwhelmingly vast majority of situations do NOT need anything additional beyond the change log. 

To make a policy  addressing a minority of situations apply across the board to all situations is not only bad systems management but is insulting to the intelligence and judgement of all the users of that system. It is how bureaucracies are built and how red tape begins to choke the original designs and goals of that system.

Please do not create policies that drive to the lowest common denominator and strip me of my personal integrity and common sense-otherwise eliminate the 'Honor Code' completely because I'm obviously either lacking in proper moral fiber or just too stupid to understand and follow it.

Further; and PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!  Helen, do not read this as a personal attack. I am simply trying to explain a point of view by comparing you and me and our wikitree experiences. 

You've been a wikitree since 2015/ me since 2013

You are a G2G6 Pilot #92/ I am a G2G6 Mach 2 #568

You have 10K contributions/ me 100K

You are involved in projects and on more high visibility profiles; while I work mostly on my tree branches and twigs that very few will ever see or really care about. While multiple people may be involved in those 'Sirs' or 'Knights' profiles and communication among all editors is not only a courtesy but perhaps a necessity as those profiles are modified over time, these are the exceptions to rule that the majority of profiles that the majority of us volunteers create and edit.

Some observations from those data points:

#1 See Leif's post below about the G2G echo chamber--which of our voices and opinions (both of which are real and both based on our unique and individual wikitree experiences and both equally valid) would tend to get heard more often? Can you possibly see a tiny bit about how your perception may be even slightly colored by the significance level of the profiles you work on vs those profiles that would  be of interest (beyond the profile's creator) to a maybe a few people in the future. The creator needs no explanation to themselves and the 'possible' future viewers can see everything needed in the change log if/when they ever come. 

#2 Assuming that I'm one of those POSs (Susan, you do not need/want to know what this acronym means--just read it as a 'BAD guy) who spends my time entering blanks and periods and then saving just to rack up points--say that 50% of my saves/points came from that bizarre behavior. That still leaves me with 5 times the data input as you. Imagine that each of the utter pointless and useless explanation clicks/inputs were a small knife poking you in the arm. For you, there would be a small dribble of blood dripping on your keyboard; for me it would be an aterial flood. Put another way; imagine if it took you 30 seconds to click/type an explanation to the work you did on any given day. Assuming again that I'm a POS, that adds up to 2 1/2 minutes on that same day of time I've wasted just cutting through the red tape--I fail to see how that time can be labeled as 'productive'.

I hope that you and the wikiteam can better understand the differing viewpoints on this issue.  While all people/profiles are important, I hope that some judgement and discretion can be applied to discern the various the levels of communication really needed to maintain them.  We are all here with different styles, work methods and are all here volunteering our time and effort in our own ways towards a common goal. Again, please don't add these unnecessary, useless and demeaning rules and regulations with such a broad brush.

Nick, I will rename you "Nick 'Hot Stuff' Andreola"

Your Para #1 -- Truth but edit it to read "perception and perspective" 

Your Para #2 -- I'm curious about POS but if it's anything like PITA (which I found out yesterday, yip yip hoo hah!) ... I WILL find out sooner or later, Nick ... but you are correct in the differences of the various activities that DO occur which are (amazingly) divvied up among various volunteers and the different requirements that each TYPE of activity carries 

From the perspective of each PM who carries out those responsibilities, for some activities it is a less than attractive imposition -- such as when correction of punctuation is their accomplishment. The perception of an outsider (to that activity) may be slewed because they do not perceive what occurs in the same way as the PM who carries out those responsibilities. (Had to be long-winded here in order to avoid chastisement for being Rude and Crude) 

Pity I can't add the theme song "76 Trombones" to accompany your dissertation ... that was one hot-dang marching song ... Think it can be found on YouTube ...  

I’ll second that Susan.
Susan, POS means Piece Of excrement and, by the way, Hot Stuff is a whitewash of a military term also starting with Hot and ending with the same word as POS does.  An example, to identify the way they're used, would be to say a POS is a PITA.

Oh Gaile!, I didn't want Susan to have to get in the gutter with me laugh  

Since we're there and to your point; Making rule changes for a few POSs and causing everyone to deal with the PITA is FUBAR IMHO.

'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)

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