2017 Community Wishlist Survey/Citations/Develop precision of citation by showing which text span the ref applies to

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⬅ Back to Citations The survey has concluded. Here are the results!

  • Problem: When citing a ref, you cannot show which span of article text the citation supports, as there is no method of markup yet available for this. We have the evil doppelgänger at w:Template:Citation needed span, but we do not have the good-guy version (like "Template:Citation span" or some such).
  • Who would benefit: Anyone who needs to show that their ref citation applies only to a certain part of the sentence.
  • Proposed solution: Provide a "Template:Citation span". It would not have to always be used; just when indication of span is needed.
  • More comments:


  • I oppose, this is not a problem. G41rn8 (talk) 17:47, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
  • This is something you can do in wikitext right now. {{sofixit}}. MER-C (talk) 06:44, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
    I've just added an ancient task which would seem to suggest that statement is not entirely true. --Izno (talk) 21:27, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
  • Can already be done by placing the reference to show which phase the cite support by placing the cite or cite needed after the phase. Example: "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,/cite needed/ consectetur adipisicing elit,/ref/ sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua./ref1/" Although a paragraph and list source might be more useful as some might not assume that a source is for the whole paragraph or list. --Spshu (talk) 20:36, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
  • User:Anthonyhcole knows a lot about this problem. Whatamidoing (WMF) (talk) 21:29, 15 November 2017 (UTC)
  • I strongly support this proposal. See the stub en:Trevor Jamieson for an inadequate solution to this problem using Template:ref supports2. On a laptop or desktop (using the default “desktop mode”) hover your mouse pointer over a footnote marker ([3]) and the supported text is displayed in a tooltip. Inadequate because it doesn’t work for blind people using a screen reader and it doesn’t work for anyone on a phone or tablet, but it’s all we have for this problem at the moment. —Anthonyhcole (talk) 07:49, 16 November 2017 (UTC)
  • This is easy to do in a mediocre way (just copy what the citation needed template does) but very hard to do well. The underlying problem is that HTML is a balanced language, for two spans either one must contain the other, or they mustn't overlap at all. (Like braces: [ ( ) ], ( [ ] ), [ ] ( ) are all valid but ( [ ) ] is not.) With citations, though, it's not unusual for two references to have partially overlapping supported texts. Also, they would quickly turn the wikitext even more unreadable then it already is.
This feature (being able to mark sections of a document in a way that's fairly independent of document strucutre) is called annotation; there are technologies to do it (there is even a web standard now) but usually they either store the extra information somewhere outside and have a hard time persisting the annotations when the document is edited, or require rich text editing to keep the document readable.
(Personally I would evolve citations in a different direction: add a "sources" tab next to "article and talk", which would list the references in the document, with various extra data like quotes and editorial summary about what the source claims - which is much like annotating the supported part of the article, except the tab could contain references that aren't in the article, so it would be easy to provide more information to the skeptical reader without worrying about keeping the article readable / keeping a consistent narrative / waging POV battles. Just a crazy thought :) --Tgr (WMF) (talk) 07:19, 18 November 2017 (UTC)
I love your parenthetical idea, Tgr. Please include me if you ever need support when pitching this. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 05:01, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
  • I agree that a meaningful implementation of this would make the wikicode unreadable, though of course I would like to see some work done on it as it's a step in the direction of a more properly hyperlinked world of texts. On a practical note, there are handy alternative ways to do the same job; what I tend to do is add a postscript at the end of each reference, briefly indicating the part of the statement that it's used to support (an example of one of the ways to do that is at en:Hindko#cite_note-3). Uanfala (talk) 01:31, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  • Strongly support. Would it be possible to make it so that the article text supported by a reference is highlighted (like this yellow) when that reference number is hovered over? To make the wikicode still readable, could it be done by just creating two extra fields for the reference coding, to give start position of highlight (compared to reference's position) and end position of highlight, e.g. 30 and 0 for 30 characters back from here, up to 0 characters back from here??? Mmitchell10 (talk) 10:57, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
  • This is one of those ideas that seems so easy to do (Hey, we even have a standard!) but are quite much harder than it seems. Annotation is rather easy. What we actually annotate is quite much harder. What the annotation actually imply is very much harder. In some cases (quite often) the referenced source in the annotation are misrepresented, or even falsely quoted, and what shall we do then? Sometimes it can be detected by looking at the context, and flagging text that is reused in a context where the sentiment changes. Sometimes it can be detected by checking and counting negations. Yes, this is very error prone. — Jeblad 22:12, 10 December 2017 (UTC)