Talk:New requirements for user signatures

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This is a Structured Discussions (Flow) page. Click in "Start a new topic" or reply to an existing thread. Use the pencil icon to switch to wikitext mode. If you find a typo after you post, then the ••• menu is where you find the Edit button. Signatures are automatic.

Do you have an example signature?

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Is there a custom sig that you think should be accepted, or rejected, or you're just curious whether it would be accepted? You can post it here if you want to.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

For the requirement for a link to user/talk/contribs: can the link be an interwiki or interlanguage link? For example, users @GB fan and @DerSpezialist on enwiki currently use the signatures [[:en:User talk:GB fan|~ GB fan]] and [[:de:Benutzer:DerSpezialist|Spezialist]]<sup>([[:de:Benutzer Diskussion:DerSpezialist|talk]])</sup>, respectively.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

@Matma Rex, what do you think of this? It's not unusual for a MassMessage to be sent "from" m:User:Whatamidoing (WMF). Although that's done manually per-message, it's possible that some people might set their prefs that way, especially outside their home wiki.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Note: I did see one editor in my dataset with an interlanguage link like [[en:User talk...]]. If IWLs/ILLs are allowed, an unprefixed ILL like that (which would show up in the sidebar, not as an inline link) should generate an error.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Yes (the one mentioned here). That specific link works, since it's already on enwiki. However, when that exact signature is copy-pasted to another wiki (or set globally), it might not work (depending on how the interwikis are set up).

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I'm wondering whether we might see more interwiki links at Meta.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

@Whatamidoing (WMF) They are more prevalent on Meta, but there are fewer signatures overall and 36 times fewer potentially problematic signatures of recently-active Meta users. data

Matma Rex (talkcontribs)

The main problem with these is that namespace names are translated, so we'd have to load localisation data for all the hundreds of languages, which is actually way slower in MediaWiki than you'd think (once upon a time I tried to do that in some unit tests, it took several seconds).

If folks really want this, then I suppose we could add an exception so that any signature with an interwiki link is valid, but we realistically can't validate that the link points to a user page (and DiscussionTools, Echo etc. won't be able to detect this signature).

I'm not sure if having a signature like this makes much sense these days. We have cross-wiki notifications, so why ask other users to reply to you on another wiki? (I actually used to have a signature like that on en.wp, e.g. … good times.)

Note also that you could easily have both a local and an interwiki link, which to me seems like the best of both worlds.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Another question: what about links to redirects? On, @~riley uses -[[User:Riley Huntley|Riley Huntley]] [[Meta:SWMT|(SWMT)]]. That page is a redirect created during renaming, and I expect that there are plenty of similar signatures on other wikis.

Matma Rex (talkcontribs)

DiscussionTools would not follow the redirect, so it will detect the "wrong" user as the author of a comment. Right now that doesn't really cause any problems, but in the future we might want to send notifications about the reply or something. (And remember that after an account is renamed, a new account can be registered under the old name, so I don't think it would be correct for us to just follow the redirect.)

I think we should treat this as invalid.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Yeah, I've got another one. On, @Doc Taxon has <small> {{ers:#timel:H:i, j. M Y (T)}}</small> at the end of their signature and appears to sign with ~~~ instead of the usual four tildes. This creates a correctly formatted (for dewiki) timestamp, but surrounds it with <small> tags. Looking for a properly-formatted date is one of the current methods for signature detection, and the extra markup might confuse that method.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

That's an interesting one. I don't know whether the Reply tool is looking for the timestamp to be at the very end of the line, but other tools might.

Doc Taxon (talkcontribs)

The reply tool handles my signature correctly. Is there a problem with it?

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

In terms of this product, I don't know.  @Matma Rex would be the best person to answer that question. In terms of other tools (e.g., an archiving bot), it's possible that some of them are confused, but if you're not getting complaints, then it's likely that the more popular tools at the German-language Wikipedia can handle it.

Matma Rex (talkcontribs)

@AntiCompositeNumber @Doc Taxon I tried a similar signature locally and it doesn't seem to work with DiscussionTools (there is no "Reply" link for it). Are you talking about a different reply tool?

The code in DiscussionTools is intentionally quite strict to avoid incorrectly matching random userpage links as if they were signatures; we pretty much expect exactly the output of ~~~~. I don't think we should be adding special cases for other things, except possibly auto-signing bots with thousands of edits.

In general I'm not a fan of customizing the timestamp. I guess <small> is harmless, but I've seen user signatures that put the timestamp inside of the userpage link, or where the timestamp has a different date format, and I'd personally consider those disruptive. And it would be difficult to draw a line between those.

For the record, the proposed new validation here would not reject your signature or any of those I mentioned, though.

Doc Taxon (talkcontribs)

Oh, because I have been mentioned above to this topic, I thought, you're talking about tools like Ping or Replyto. I think it was a misunderstanding. Sorry!

Reply to "Do you have an example signature?"
WereSpielChequers (talkcontribs)

The WMF is conceding that there are a few signatures that would be non compliant, but has not quantified this, notified those whose signatures would need to change, or told those individuals what change they might need to make. Most wikipedians are reasonable. I believe that many would simply change their signature if they received a polite request "Hi, the developers are looking to change the signature rules slightly. If this goes ahead you would need to change your signature from "this bunch of text" to "this bunch of text", there is a discussion "here". The rest of us would probably relax if we knew that it was being handled this way.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

By my count, about 8200 enwiki editors with edits in the last year. Most of those editors are new contributors who put plain text into the signature box and clicked "Treat this as wikitext" without reading the warnings around it. The original proposal was to leave these signatures in place, but there has been (at least initial) support for a process of depreciation and removal.

Matma Rex (talkcontribs)

To be clear, with the plans we have right now, no one will need to make any changes to their signature. Even if your existing signature would be invalid under the new rules, it will still be allowed, and you'll only need to make changes if you're trying to change your signature anyway.

We're considering doing something about existing signatures (see the discussion other sections on this page), but right now we have no plans, and if we end up doing anything, we should notify the individual users as you suggest.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Even though there is no plan to invalidate signatures yet, I think that some users would like to be able to check whether theirs (or their friends') are "on the list". When Tidy was removed, I remember that @Anomalocaris talked to a lot of individual editors about fixing their signatures, and I think most people were cooperative about it.

@AntiCompositeNumber, do you think it would be worth turning that into an editor-friendly list with sections like "These people should untick that button" or "These people should add a link", and post it on the relevant wiki?

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

A tool to check a single person's signature wouldn't be very difficult. I'll work on that.

Anomalocaris (talkcontribs)

I started my effort to ask enwiki editors to fix their signatures on October 15, 2017. I tracked this effort in multiple spreadsheets, and there may be some names that appear in more than one. I estimate that by now I have made signature requests of about 990 editors. In descending order, the four most common issues were (1) obsolete font tags; (2) Tidy bug affecting font tags wrapping links, now known as Old behaviour of link-wrapping font tags; (3) enlargement with font size or big markup; (4) other lint issues including misnested tags, missing end tags, other obsolete HTML, and stripped tags. In no particular order, there were also (5) use of subst to exceed the 255-character limit; (6) excessive text shadow; (7) use of the unescaped pipe character; (8) signatures with images. I never observed a signature that lacked a link to user page, talk page or contributions. I never observed a signature with nested substitutions.

About 1% refused to comply. About 9% ignored my request and continued to use their non-compliant signature. About 15% may have fixed their signatures, but I never saw and recorded that they used their signature after my request. About 75% I recorded as having fixed their signatures.

"We're looking for feedback as to whether you would like existing invalid signatures to be disallowed. If invalid signatures are disallowed, the default signature would be inserted when affected users sign their comments, until they correct their personalized signatures." Yes, let's notify users that this change is coming, and then use default signatures in place of existing invalid signatures. Is this the right place for me to put this comment?

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

> Is this the right place for me to put this comment?

Yes. Pretty much any place on this page is the right place to put your comments. isn't a bureaucratic place. :-)

PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)

@AntiCompositeNumber You might look closer to the time of the most recent edit or editcount when informing projects about a list of problematic signatures.

  • I took your analysis and did inform the 8 most seriously affected users at dewiki.
    • These were missing end tag and 1 nested-subst.
    • The nested-subst has been an experiment by a user who made one article edit and never showing up again, obviously just playing around.
    • 4 users are editing on a daily base, they did change the signature immediately.
    • 4 users made their last edit 2, 5, 8, 10 month ago, some with lower total count.
    • All were actually misnested and remedied anyway by REMEX (tidy) cleanup. They did not harm to subsequent contributions.
  • In general it is a very good idea to feed a short list to communities in order to support people in fixing and explaining in their own language and by local techies.
    • However, the list should be as short as possible to keep the task feasible.
    • I would limit myself to 1 or 3 months; who is off for a longer period does not sign and will not respond on talk page notifications.
    • Only most disturbing effects should be listed (non-empty without link, closing tag missing, subst etc.).
    • You may provide a JSON list offline with complete data, but many projects might be unable to derive conclusions from that.
  • Decorative issues, styling, obsoleted HTML which will work for decades should not be mentioned in first place project information. It is up to projects to check that with their local guidelines.
  • If someone is using an inappropriate signature, other users will note that and start reminding and demanding earlier or later.
    • Affecting subsequent contributions is not obvious to the user itself, but will be observed by the next editor at the last section of thread. Here it is really helpful to get early notification and rejecting storing that preference.
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Hey, I don't write the requirements, I'm just trying to help everyone make a more informed decision. I do agree that most of the users in the initial lists were just experimenting and have now left. A potential bot making notifications would be in a better position to evaluate the activity of users before notifying, as total run time is less of a concern.

Anyway, I put together. It allows you to check a single user's signature (with basic explanations of the problems) or view a nicer form of the aggregate listings. Those lists now only cover editors with an edit in the last 30 days. Remember that this tool still only shows preliminary findings, and may not totally represent what future MediaWiki developers may implement. (This is especially the case for nested substitution, as I don't have a reliable way of implementing it without many false positives or false negatives). PRs/suggestions/bug reports are of course welcome.

Anomalocaris (talkcontribs)

User:AntiCompositeNumber: Your wmflabs tool looks great! Questions and comments:

  • Nested substitution (5) include 4 that have single tildes (~) and 1 that has double tildes (~~) and none with more than 2 consecutive tildes. I don't think single and double tildes are a problem. (Experimentally, in enwiki, it does not seem to be possible now to create a signature string with more than 2 consecutive tildes, with or without checking the "treat as markup" box.) What say you?
  • There are no counts of various lint errors such as Misc Tidy replacement issues. I assume you checked for all lint errors, yes?
  • Did you check for unescaped pipe characters, and if not, can you add this?
  • enwiki user Anomalocaris 500 recently established a signature that unintentionally impersonates another user, viz:
    [[User:Anomalocaris 500|Anomalocaris]] ([[User talk:Anomalocaris 500|talk]]): Anomalocaris (talk)
    Would it be possible to add a check that signatures don't display another existing user's name? Maybe that should be a separate project altogether.
  • Note that the site report link does not work.
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

I have improved the nested substitution check, and it shouldn't have false positives anymore. (Originally, the check was only "has three tildes anywhere". I later wrote a function to evaluate subst:, but never improved the nested check. It now uses recursive substitution on signatures with templates.) There is no filtering for lint errors: all errors returned by the Linter API are reported. I have not written checks for unescaped pipes or impersonation, as they are not part of this proposal. Both would require a wikitext-aware parser, which could slow things down. I've added it to my list. The meta.wm.o report hadn't been updated yet, that's fixed.

Anomalocaris (talkcontribs)

User:AntiCompositeNumber: I went to your GitHub page. I don't want to join GitHub, so I'll just share that other things that could be wrong with signatures include:

  • External links
  • Zero characters in Latin script (or the native script of the Wiki)
  • enlargement
  • line breaks
  • too small to read
  • horizontal rule
  • insufficient contrast between foreground and background color
  • insufficient contrast between text and text shadow
  • text shadow extends above or below signature into surrounding text
PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)


  1. I created a German docpage for your lovely tool.
  2. There may be more than one alias for user namespace.
    • In German and Portuguese there is a female word for “user”.
      • The tool is blaming our female editors Benutzerin: for missing link.
    • There might be shortcuts; BD: is legally abbreviating Benutzer Diskussion: which works: w:de:BD:PerfektesChaos.
  3. Pointless but valid spaces after colon might be ignored; see: Benutzer: Cham xxx Eleon
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Doh! There's a second API endpoint to get the rest of the namespace aliases, and I forgot to include it. I also accidentally left test data in the single-user form, which limited the sites available in the form. All fixed now.

PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)

Yeah, fine.

I have notified a dozen of users and suggested a change.

For a future Global Signature Policy I would recommend:

  • Do not permit substitution since no persistent evaluation possible.
  • Do not harm subsequent contributions:
    • Closing tags (including '' and ''') required.
    • Valid tag nesting to simplify checks and supervising.
  • Valid HTML.4 (as of 1998), postponed goal
    • That will say: Fade out <font> but leave <tt> until further decisions next decade.
    • <font> might be replaced by CSS with no big deal, and signatures consuming the last byte of some permitted 255 and do not fit with CSS are much too long anyway.
    • <font> has gone forever, and it always needs attributes; so it might be span style= instead.
    • <tt> might be re-established by HTML6 or MediaWiki, and replacement is not very comprehensive and would start exhaustive debates.
  • A link to any page of this user is mandatory.
    • Might be either talk or main user page.
    • Might be in another project, but the identical nick.
    • Some global accounts may be contacted better at their home wiki than as rare visitor on some small wikis.
    • I am in doubt whether subpages of main user and main talk page should fulfil that requirement. That will say, whether a slash / shall be permitted. German Wikipedia has special rules on main talk page, which must not be deleted ever (and moving will be logged), and it is much easier to extract user name from one link type than stripping off subpages.
    • Possible rule: No other user or user talk link than signing user may occur, but any other project page may be linked. Reason: machine-readable identification of the signing user rather than multiple hits for several nicks.
Anomalocaris (talkcontribs)

PerfektesChaos, would it be fair to say that your proposal, regarding HTML validity, is, "No lint errors allowed except stripped tags and obsolete HTML, and also no <font> tags"? You are OK with <tt>. The other two obsolete HTML tags are <strike> and <center>. Perhaps <strike> (and <s>) should be prohibited because not because of obsolete HTML but because it's just confusing to other users if there is strikeout text in a signature. And <center> (or any alignment markup) should be prohibited because not because of obsolete HTML but because it would generate one or more line breaks, which are already prohibited by AntiCompositeNumber's Extended validation criteria and by implication in en:WP:SIGAPP and presumably its equivalent in every other project. I have verified that the Preferences page does accept signatures with markup including <center>...</center> and <div style="text-align:right">...</div>.

PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)
  • On <center> (never seen in a signature) yes, to be blamed, but not for obsolete but for block element.
  • The same goes for <div> if not made inline, and <gallery> or <syntaxhighlight> are inappropriate as well.
  • I do not think that it is the business of global signature management to enforce in 1000 WMF wikis and external world recent HTML standards.
    • That should be left to local authorities.
    • Some have simply no management power and technical experts.
    • Many users would need a lot of explanation and help, which is not provided by global blaming.
    • Many users will feel patronized by WMF.
    • Browsers are obliged to render old HTML for decades.
    • This is a slow process which needs to grow over many years.
  • I would ignore obsolete HTML5 on global level.
    • <font> has gone in 1998 with HTML.4; this one is now ready for stronger reduction. The attributes are unique for this element, they are not matched by any other HTML element. This causes confusion and requires special education in a 1990s concept, which requires resources.
    • <big> is deprecated by HTML5, but as well as <tt> replacement is large and it is hard to convince thousands of users to change their signature right now for no strong reason. Why is <small> still permitted? (I guess I know why) In HTML6 <big> might be rehabilitated, as done by HTML5 with <i> and <b> which HTML.4 had deprecated.
    • <strike> is self-explaining, while <s> is very reduced. Do not mess with users for that.
  • HTML in signatures will be improved when article space raised conformity for many years and authors learnt from article sources how it should be done. As long as there are many bad examples everywhere nobody can be convinced to take action and modify their signatures.
    • German Wikipedia has wiped out <font> and <source> in major spaces for several years now, but we get frequently contaminated by C&P and bad examples from enWP.
  • The total number of complaints must not exceed capacity of local experts who help to remedy. Keep the number low and narrow cases to most disturbing problems, otherwise people will not deal at all with thousands of warnings.

@AntiCompositeNumber How often do you intend to update reports? I would regard a weekly recollection sufficient.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Everything is still manual at the moment, I'm not planning to run them more than once a week.

Reply to "How many is "a few"?"

Role of auto-assigned User ID?

Ceyockey (talkcontribs)

I think that the entire discussion around signature formatting could be set aside if the identification and reply functionality were based on the User ID. On my page my User ID is 150564 . It is my belief that this auto-generated ID is a) unique for every newly created account and b) independent of the signature. I would suggest that functionality be put in place that would embed the User ID into the signature, as hidden text, upon use of any of the 3, 4 or 5 tilde signature indicators. I am not familiar with the details of the wikimedia software, so my understanding of the feasibility of this is 0. Thanks for considering, nonetheless. --~~~~

Sunpriat (talkcontribs)

This id is different across all wikis. The nickname is the same in all wikis (upon request it is possible to make a different name for one of the wikis, for example, there is "nickname (xxwiki)", but there are not many such cases). Signing with an id on one wiki, on another wiki it will be the id of another person. When registering a nickname, software guarantees uniqueness and discrepancy with old nicknames. So id can be embarrassing, they are less croswiki universal and some will think with prejudice towards someone whose number is less.

Reply to "Role of auto-assigned User ID?"
Sunpriat (talkcontribs)

At a minimum, you need to send a wiki notification to all existing users that their "your signature contains markup errors" and "use the verification tool for your signature in the settings." Such verification and sending a wiki notification should be done every time a user logs in to an account or when a signature is automatically inserted. I had to send a lot of messages on user talk pages with the text "your signature contains errors. Because of this, the pages where you leave the signature fall into the lists of pages with errors. Here is a variant of your corrected signature." This should be automatically notified to all old users with a custom signature before they leave a new copy of their signature.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs) lets editors check their signatures, if they're interested. Getting a list of invalid signatures seems feasible, and we can use MassMessage to leave notes on their User_talk: pages. It's probably only worth notifying active editors, though.

Reply to "Existing signatures"
PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)

The feedback call is starting with three questions.

For ages, German Wikipedia is demanding core requirements (mandatory link, no invalid HTML, no influence to following contributions) or is enforcing now Linter proof signatures by active users, rearranging historical element sequence within old archives if affecting following text. Furthermore, template transclusion is not permitted to avoid eternal maintenance burden, and use of images is strongly discouraged.

On the three questions:

  1. Causing any Problems? No.
  2. Team preservations? Be careful with communities and keep impact on existing prefs low. Good communications: announcing and explaining.
  3. Current signatures? I answered in the section on Should non-compliant signatures be invalidated? and recommended no action or disabling only if affecting subsequent text. Which is undisputable and could not be argued, but would be really helpful.
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Out of curiosity, I ran my detection script for dewiki, and they're definitely in a better place than enwiki. Only about 730 total editors active in the last year have potentially problematic signatures, and as with most other wikis, the biggest problem is people turning on fancysig when they shouldn't. Data (If anyone would like data for another wiki, ping me and I'll run it).

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Thanks for that offer, AntiCompositeNumber. I hope that anyone who's curious or worried will take you up on it.

Reply to "Questionnaire"
Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I've just talked to the Editing team, and they plan to make decisions in early April. While comments seem to be slowing down a bit right now, there's still plenty of time to share your ideas.

Reply to "Timeline"

Should non-compliant signatures be invalidated?

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

A few existing (and not blocked) editors probably have signatures that don't meet these criteria. The current proposal is to ignore those signatures. Do you think that's a good idea?

Opinions I've personally heard so far are:

  • Leave them alone
  • Leave them alone now, and remove them later (maybe next year)
  • Remove them later

(If your signature got removed, then the software would use the default sig instead.)

What option do you prefer?

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)

Leave them alone for now. Notify editors with invalid signatures, and set a fixed date after which their invalid signatures will be replaced with plain uncustomized signatures.

Before doing this, make sure that resources are available to enforce each of these steps.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

I like this idea. Basically phase them out. Start by forbidding new invalid signatures, put warnings in preferences for old ones (alongside maybe site notice / watchlist notice for logged in editors with custom sigs / invalid sigs) and give some time for people to voluntarily update. Then after 3/6/12 months, kill the stragglers.

InvalidOS (talkcontribs)

I'd say don't invalidate them. Why force people to change if they don't want to?

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)

Re "Why force people to change if they don't want to?"

Because every time someone adds an invalid signature to a talk page, it creates a new error that someone else will later need to fix.

Davidwr (talkcontribs)

Support idea but be cautions. I'm copying a copying this edit here where it belongs:

Great idea, but allow projects and third-party users of MediaWiki software to opt out. For example, if the English Wikipedia or WikiData or some third party web site that uses the software wants to keep the current behavior, they should be able to do so. For community-run Wikimedia projects, it would presumably be a community decision to accept any software that imposed requirements stricter than existing ones. For the English Wikipedia and others where the software would merely be enforcing the existing requirements, this change should be accepted as routine. I say it should be routine for the English Wikipedia, if any existing users have grandfathered-in exceptions that would break under the new code, then an en-wiki discussion would have to be held before accepting the changed code.

Davidwr (talk) 18:37, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

Are you aware of any community that prefers looser requirements than these? (These changes are less restrictive than the English Wikipedia's.) Most small wikis don't bother writing rules about signatures, but if any community actively prefers something different from this, then I'm sure they'd want to accommodate them, too.

(Changes to MediaWiki core (which this is an example of) are the purview of the MediaWiki community, rather than any of the user communities.)

Davidwr (talkcontribs)

I am not aware of any. However, announcing it on each project's equivalent to the English Wikipedia's Village Pump or Centralized discussion should give you an answer in short order if the answer is "yes." Davidwr (talk) 20:03, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

TheDJ (talkcontribs)

i honestly have no idea why.... people can fork the software if they want to maintain something difficult for their own enjoyment.

Pbsouthwood (talkcontribs)

It usually causes less hassle to let the projects make their own choices rather than having changes thrust upon them. Even with things that are an obvious improvement to most people. If they really are an improvement, the projects will probably accept them

TheDJ (talkcontribs)

less hassle on who ? Im hassled as a dev every week by having to account for everyone wanting their own little sandbox to play around in.

Just because people dont experience my hassle nor rly care about the sanity of their developers. Its a world of two truths. We just need to decide which one is more important.

Pbsouthwood (talkcontribs)

Less hassle as in less pushback from those people who will get the impression that this is another thing that WMF has arbitrarily decided they will have whether they like it or not.

If you are saying this is a thing that is broken and must be fixed, produce a convincing explanation of what is broken and why it must be fixed. The communities are more likely to accept the proposed solution if it can be shown to be both necessary and desirable.

I personally don't see any need for fancy formatting of sigs at all, and would not have a problem with default only, but I may be in a minority on that point. All I look for is the ability to easily spot my own sig on a page without having to do a search, which can be done by highlighting.

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)
Davidwr (talkcontribs)

Give users with grandfathered signatures a limited time to change their signature to a different non-compliant signature. You don't want everyone trying to "get in under the wire" though, so limit this "limited change window" to people with non-compliant signatures by some cutoff date, say, March 1, 2020. Davidwr (talk) 18:40, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

Schazjmd (talkcontribs)

I agree with Davidwr: Notify editors with non-compliant signatures and allow them a limited amount of time to modify it. I don't think it makes any sense to allow them in perpetuity. (adding manual timestamp since sig isn't working) Schazjmd (talk) 19:12, 4 March 2020 (UTC)

Davidwr (talkcontribs)

@Schazjmd: To clarify: The proposal on the table says editors CAN keep a non-compliant signature in perpetuity, which I agree with. My proposal goes further and says that IF you have such a signature today and the software will change, say, in June, you will have a few months, say, until the end of the year, to change it to a different non-compliant signature without the software stopping you. After that, you can either keep the one you had at the end of the year or change it to a compliant one.

Of course, some languages and some projects may prefer the proposal as-written, in which case the this additional leeway can be disabled.

Schazjmd (talkcontribs)

Thanks for the clarification, I did miss that subtlety. My opinion is the same, it's just not the same as Davidwr's. :) ~~~~

Tacsipacsi (talkcontribs)

@Davidwr: I think disallowing to set a non-compliant signature should happen in one step. It’s highly confusing if a user complains that they can’t set a non-compliant sig, and another user answers they can. As for the disabling existing non-compliant signatures: I support having a notification (e.g. using Echo) and giving users some time, probably a month or two. I don’t think the past cutoff date is important as long as the non-compliant signatures will be disabled anyway (and especially if even non-compliant ones can be changed only to compliant ones after deploying this feature); but it doesn’t seem to be possible, either—I don’t think the date when a preference has been set is stored anywhere, so it cannot be queried whether this date is prior to March 1.

Davidwr (talkcontribs)

@Tacsipacsi - if the choice is limited to the three things in the list, I would say that on the projects I participate in heavily (English Wikipedia and Commons), "leave them alone" then wait a year to see if it's a big enough problem to force grandfathered users to change their signatures.

Izno (talkcontribs)

I agree with the others (not David) in favoring something like option 2, with notification/warning on talk pages or similar. I am 0% a fan of "never change/remove these". I am a fan of 6 months to a year, but one to two months is also reasonable. No more than a year of grandfathering, however.

Tacsipacsi (talkcontribs)

In any case, a notification for affected users would be beneficial. (I think the vast majority of the affected users have non-compliant signatures by accident, so notifying them would probably significantly drop the count of non-compliant users.)

TheDJ (talkcontribs)

Warn first, then if still not valid, reset them to the default signature instead of them having a custom signature (also do this for 'no longer active' users).

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

@TheDJ, have you thought about how to identify who to notify about non-compliant sigs? Most editors are inactive, so most invalid sigs are likely to be inactive, so I don't think we want to notify everyone with a non-compliant custom sig somewhere in the database. If we could get a list of active editors with non-compliant sigs, it might be possible, as @Tacsipacsi suggests, to use Notifications to alert them. Otherwise, we could send MassMessages to their user talk pages (SUL-style).

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

I got bored today and wrote a script to go through the signatures of enwiki editors that have edited in the last and approximate the proposed new rules. It identified 8308 editors with problematic signatures, but I know that there are false positives and false negatives in that dataset. The most common error is not linking to a user page, with 7193 problematic signatures. Most of these errors are caused by editors ignoring the warnings around the "Treat the above text as wikitext" checkbox and only putting in a nickname. After that, as we probably expected, is font tags, with 1108 editors. The full dataset is available here as json lines and here as a json object with the statistics included.

Tacsipacsi (talkcontribs)

By the way, as the biggest concern is probably <font> in signatures, which is fairly straightforward to fix, what’s about instead of disabling such signatures, simply fixing them (i.e. the ones that are compliant except for the use of <font> tags) after the grace period?

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)

The word "simply" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence. Modifying existing signatures without editors' consent is a lot of extra, risky work for no benefit, especially if their invalid custom signatures can be deleted (edited to add: or disabled; see next comment by AntiCompositeNumber) instead, leaving the editors with perfectly valid, visually neutral signatures.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

The only thing I'd suggest leaving open is disabling fancysig (the "Treat the above text as wikitext" checkbox) for users with no formatting characters in their signatures. Otherwise, if they've been warned and don't fix it, just drop it.

Tacsipacsi (talkcontribs)

OK, this was just an idea, it’s not crucial for me.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I have the impression that editing the prefs database is tricky, and it might cause the Technology folks to break out in a bad rash.

RexxS (talkcontribs)

I would have thought that we can get some creme for the rash and at least replace those sigs that have no links with a default sig. That single job would eliminate close to 90% of the problems sigs on the enwiki (thanks to AntiCompositeNumber for the stats), leaving a much more manageable job for the remaining issues.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

If they disabled the non-compliant sigs (e.g., after six months or a year), I understand that MediaWiki would leave the old code sitting untouched in the prefs database and simply ignore it, so 100% of them would use the default sig then.

(You're thinking about a topical antihistamine to deal with stress-induced hives? Do you have a MEDRS-compliant source for that suggestion? ;-) )

MarcoSwart (talkcontribs)

When we were making nl.wiktionary html5 compliant, we did find between 10 and 20 signatures that contained Linter errors. We explained to each user in question in a personal message what the problem was, and showed them how they could easily resolve it, like this example. If we got a reaction, it was a positive one. Of course there were also a number of users who were no longer active. In all cases we were able to make the desired adaptations. Maybe this approach could be useful in this case too. My guess in the present situation invalidating non-compliant signatures on nl.wiktionary wouldn't be problematic.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

@MarcoSwart Survey says you'd be correct in that guess: only 5 nl.wiktionary editors have problematic signatures. All of them are either using interwiki links or redirects instead of a direct link to a local user/user talk/contribs page.

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)

That is great to hear. I expect that we will eventually have a similar outcome on en.WP, but everything there is at a larger scale, which can result in a little more pain, and more "edge cases".

Stjn (talkcontribs)

I’d say the idea that makes more sense is to invalidate those signatures after the user has been somehow informed by the software for some time (a week?) and didn’t make their signature valid. I think it is doable from the technical standpoint and will be the most seamless for users. After all, signatures that don’t get used aren’t really a problem.

PerfektesChaos (talkcontribs)
  • If an existing fancy signature will affect subsequent contributions, that one might be marked as invalid and can be ignored.
    • That goes for lack of closing tag, perhaps subst: business (never seen), inappropriate MediaWiki elements.
    • If ignored and falling back to non-fancy the input field needs to get red background and an explaining label.
  • If not, keep in effect what is in preferences now to avoid riots.
    • Leave that to local projects.
    • They will visit most disturbing code producers anyway and help to fix the individual syntax problem.
    • Users might be offwiki for half a year, and will be overburdened when they return and password is too simple, signature is bad and interface appearance changed in many ways.
    • The input field might get a red border and an explanation.
  • Obsolete HTML5 like <tt> does not influence readability of HTML document. It will be supported for many decades, might become official code again in some HTML.6, and even if not interpreted next century it does not change the meaning, text is just less decorated. Even <font> which is obsolete since HTML.4 in 1998 (and not HTML5) would cause less decoration only, if ever. Do not bother users.
  • On attempting to change or introduce a signature, you may linter it right now and reject any undesired code as you like.
  • If a user is not active, nothing is signed. If returning 12 months later, this is the earliest point to deal with that change. However, many things are to be learned again and new behaviour in various situations is to be learnt.
Reply to "Should non-compliant signatures be invalidated?"

Support link, oppose linter

Alsee (talkcontribs)

First I want to note that I'm not a fan of putting this on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard. I only saw it because it accidentally turned up in the middle of a list of Phab search results.

The link requirement is helpful to users, the error message would be clear and simple, and it's surely in line with policy or practice at probably every wiki.

The linter portion is not remotely supported by the why rationale offered for the proposal. It would pointlessly disrupt users with confusing error messages on perfectly valid wikitext. It would be insane to suggest things like <small><sup>this</small></sup> could or would ever be banned. @Whatamidoing (WMF) Please ping me if linter is dropped from the signature proposal. In that case I can skip incorporating this signatures item in a linter-related discussion planned for the new EnWiki Village Pump page.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

@Alsee That example isn't perfectly valid wikitext though. It's a side effect of a old, broken parsing system that is being replaced, and shouldn't be used. If you've got a suggestion about where this proposal should be further publicized, I'm sure we'd all be glad to hear it.

Alsee (talkcontribs)

@AntiCompositeNumber your argument is completely unrelated to the rationale given for this proposal.

Instead of trying to push through the linter issue under a deceptive rationale, how about we allow the Require a link to user page, talk page or contributions portion sail through uncontroversially. Then you or anyone else can make a separate linter proposal with the authentic rationale. Then I can more neatly wrap the linter topic inside a discussion I plan to open on the Foundation's broader strategy around VisualEditor. There has been too much conflict between the Foundation and the community, too many failed products, and it primarily traces back to the strategy around VisualEditor. The Foundation and the community need to get in better alignment on our broader strategy, and one possible outcome is that the rationale you just gave for linter vanishes.

Kaldari (talkcontribs)

I don't see what this proposal has to do with VisualEditor. Regardless of whether the WMF uses VE or Parsoid for talk page replies, they will still need to be able to reliably detect signatures in order to reliably add reply buttons, which is impossible right now. Requiring signatures to use sane HTML makes detection much easier. Of course it also has lots of other nice side-effects like making signatures render consistently regardless of HTML doctype and making it easier to migrate to Parsoid (or any sort of modern DOM-based parser), but that's not really the point.

Alsee (talkcontribs)

Setting aside the other issues, you can't actually impose any constraints at all on signatures. Anyone can type anything as a signature - or even automate it with a userscript. -- Main (talk) 25:68, 44 March 4130 (UTC)

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Sure -- and people can just not sign their messages at all. That's like saying Wikipedia shouldn't have verifiability standards because anyone can edit.

Matma Rex (talkcontribs)
Reply to "Support link, oppose linter"

Support, but not sure about font

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

<font face="Helvetica">

is a lot shorter than

<span style="font-family: Helvetica">

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)
Izno (talkcontribs)

I am on the same page as Jonesey. It is nice that it is short but browsers may stop supporting it at any time, in which case all those beautiful customized signatures will not be beautiful anymore.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

I definitely agree that <font> shouldn't be used anymore, but I'm also aware that there are probably still editors that are a) still using it, b) close to the character limit, and c) would run to the dramaboards because the evil WMF banned their personal signature out of spite. If anyone has any sort of data to say how prevalent font tags are in signatures, it would probably help guide this decision.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

Alright, I ran the numbers: there are 6705 enwiki editors with a font tag in their signature already. Some of them clearly haven't been changed in a while, since they predate the software-enforced 255 character limit. There are 1916 enwiki editors with a font tag and a signature longer than 200 characters. Nothing would break immediately for these editors if they did not change their signature, but many would be unable to make any edits to their signature without removing the existing formatting (because the span tags are too long).

Jonesey95 (talkcontribs)

Do you have a way of knowing how many of those 1,916 editors have made an edit in the last year? That would give us an idea of how many people may actually be affected by font tags being deprecated.

And FWIW, changing a font tag to a span tag if you are setting the font face, as in Headbomb's example above, adds 14 characters, but if you are just setting the color, it adds only 7 characters. The vast majority of editors should be fine, and a few might have to make do with a bit less customization.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

It would probably also be a good idea to post suggested fixes to the signatures. For example a bot message like

Blah blah blah, linter error, html 5 blah blah blah, which is bad because of explosions, murder, and possibly jaywalking

  • Current signature: <b>[[User:Example]]</b>, which renders as User:Example
  • Suggested signature: '''[[User:Example]]''' which renders as User:Example

A message from FIX-YO-SIG Bot 00:41, 5 March 2020 (UTC)

Izno (talkcontribs)

I think I would tend toward a "see Project:Signature fix page for a list of common optimizations and feel free to ask on the talk page if you need help changing your signature."; even in your example, there might be context such as <span> elements with styling that could instead be turned into <b> elements with styling.

But, that's implementation details.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

That's also a good potential workflow. Possibly with a bot posting basically a similar message and pointing them to that signature fixing page.

TheDJ (talkcontribs)

Well lint fixing experiences of the past show that you can't even write a bot for some of these things, so either we need a really smart AI, or we just have a page where some humans help out.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

363 editors have font tags and have made an edit since 2019-03-04T00:00:00Z.

Izno (talkcontribs)

I do not think 363 is really a sufficient quantity to support font, and eyeballing the majority of the cases pulled up in that query, I don't really think the signature lengths I'm seeing need it either given a number of optimizations I can see being made to most of those signatures. For the others, I don't think they should really be running around with such individuality as I'm seeing.

(But thank you for the tasty data.)

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

Also this editing interface is garbage. ~~~~

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

This community prefers that people start in visual mode. The pencil icon in the corner by the "Reply" button will let you switch to wikitext mode (automatic sticky preference, so make it in your next reply, and it'll remember it until you change it).

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

I'd definitely agree that prohibiting <font> tags will cause unnecessary complaints. The other requirements seem to be reasonable and enforced by policy and/or angry editors in many places already. The overall decision to deprecate and remove font tags as lint errors is probably outside the scope of this proposal though.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

It's not only the familiarity of the font tags themselves, but also the length saving. The difference between font/span example above is a whopping 14 characters.

Everything else seems kosher.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

It's really not evident in the least that a pencil icon switches between different editing interface.

AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

It is the standard button for it throughout OOUI.

Headbomb (talkcontribs)

I'd say it's equally confusing everywhere it's used then. Anyway, that's irrelevant to signatures, so let's stop here. Other fun fact about VE discussions, you can't collapse/archiving side discussions or re-indent them to make them follow one another. Yaaayyyy.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

(Technically, this is Flow, which happens to use a version of VisualEditor as one of its editing environments. I'm not sure that there's even a name for Flow's wikitext mode. I think that both desktop and mobile use the same tools in Flow, so you should only have two, rather than four, editing systems here.)

RexxS (talkcontribs)

I'd definitely get rid of <font>...</font> tags. All too often you get something like <font face="Helvetica">''' ... '''</font>, which translates to <b style="font-family:Helvetica"> ... </b>, which is only one character more. It's often possible to use style="font:Helvetica" if the other font property defaults are okay at that point, and that actually saves six characters net. When you get colour changes at the same point, you increase the savings, and because styles can be applied to <i>...</i>, <sup>...</sup>, <small>...</small>, etc. there are lots of opportunities for applying a style without adding a span. That very often results in a net decrease instead of a net increase in sig length.

Reply to "Support, but not sure about font"

Disable "fancy" signatures entirely

ToBeFree (talkcontribs)
AntiCompositeNumber (talkcontribs)

I wish.

Pine (talkcontribs)
Stjn (talkcontribs)

On the other hand, ‘diversity of user signatures’ makes our wikis less welcoming to people with colour blindness and disabilities that require using a screen reader to edit (since, I imagine, they have to go through a lot of useless code to know, say, who to ping in a discussion). You have to wonder what kind of diversity we should value.

Stjn (talkcontribs)
Reply to "Disable "fancy" signatures entirely"