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Indentation style

Summary by ESanders (WMF)

Stjn (talkcontribs)

As far as I can see, current prototype of the project still uses wrong syntax for making the threading work. If WMF will develop a script (although I would prefer an extension, since not everyone has JS enabled), please make sure to use the right syntax (***) instead of the wrong one (:::).

As noted on MDN, description list syntax is not intended to be used as a list without bullets, it is intended for entirely different purposes, even if a lot of our users neglect that on forums. Using wrong syntax makes the accessibility and semantics of our pages worse.

Sophivorus (talkcontribs)

What if the MediaWiki parser is modified so that in the talk pages only it interprets ::: in a more sensible (semantic) way, while keeping the visual output identical?

Granted, this idea seems to go beyond the scope of this project, but it is somewhat related and I would love to hear why it's insane.

Jc86035 (talkcontribs)

In theory this could be possible, and it could only make sense to interpret such formatting as indentation rather than as definition lists.

However, the relevant Phabricator task (previously the Bugzilla bug) has been open since January 2006. I don't expect that issue to be resolved in this way. MediaWiki is fragile, and the WMF rarely allocates its limited resources to fixing these sorts of difficult problems.

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

In the category of complications, if wikitext markup means something different on different pages, then it'd be hard to discuss content that uses that markup, such as w:en:Disease#Terminology. So either you have to give up on discussing that content 'correctly', or you have to have some system for saying that the other namespaces' rules apply to this one bit of the talk page but not to the rest of it, which adds more complication to MediaWiki.

I think that we can safely predict that no such changes will happen during the next two years (i.e., until the old parser has been removed, and Parsoid is used on all pages).

Stryn (talkcontribs)

AFAIK "*" is only used on Russian wikis for indentation. Many wikis have always used ":".

Stjn (talkcontribs)

I think in most projects it is, mostly, inconsistent (with different users using both), while in some others, like French Wikipedia, they do prefer :. In the recent years English Wikipedia might’ve adopted : through using tools like Enterprisey’s reply-link, but it’s not uniform either. The same is with more widespread usage of * in Russian wikis due to Convenient Discussions script.

Jc86035 (talkcontribs)

On the English Wikipedia, the convention I've generally seen is that * and # are used mainly for "votes" (e.g. RFCs, RFA), and : is generally used for everything else. *'''Support'''. ~~~~ is a fairly common construction even in more informal discussions.

Although the guidelines recommend not mixing indentation styles, I think it's more common to use *:: than ***, and more common to use #:: than ###.

Aron Manning (talkcontribs)

Editors cannot be faulted for using DL-DD tags to indent, that's the html generator's choice. I think the wikitext syntax (':') and usage is appropriate and the generator should use a different element (maybe '<div class="ind">' with 18 chars compared to the 8 chars of '<dl><dd>'). Or alternatively each comment should be properly marked up with a tag like <post>. There's another topic here that discusses that possibility (I still have to allocate the time to read that though...).

I do occasionally use '*' on enwiki depending on context to separate two long (10 line) comments with the significantly noticeable bullet. As a hack, basically, to make the conversation more readable. Sometimes I'd prefer if enwiki would follow the ruwiki practice of using bullets '***' to mark comments. As a sidenote: These issues are all the result of using a technology (wikipages) not suitable for the purpose of discussions...

Jc86035 (talkcontribs)

I think the relevant Phabricator tasks are phab:T230683 and phab:T230658.

Since introducing altogether new markup constructs has been floated by the developers working on this, it seems somewhat likely that that will actually happen; and if new markup is introduced, then reusing any list item syntax to format discussions (as opposed to introducing separate multi-line syntax for list items and discussions) could seem somewhat short-sighted.

As phab:T241388 and phab:T240696 demonstrate, there are some issues with using any of the current list item markup for automatic nesting, because it makes it impossible to use markup consistently (especially with anything involving line breaks). This isn't really an issue in the current software, since it's only possible to write replies, but it will become more apparent if it becomes possible to create new sections and new syntax hasn't been introduced.

Aron Manning (talkcontribs)

Using specific markup such as <post> for each comment would make it possible to separate comments with eg. a border. The reason to use '***' is to mark this separation. Without that need the "debate" whether to use ':::' or '***' would be rendered unnecessary. Parsing and tooling would be more reliable too.

The price of these benefits is the need to write the comment opening and closing tags if editing the raw page source.

RTG (talkcontribs)

Hello, I'm not sure how I got notified of this, however, * produces what is called a bullet point. It is used to sign that you have a particular point to make in the particular writing. As for common usage... it can depend which area you are posting in. The most recognisable example is DYK. Bullet points are often used more than anything else in DYK.

Although it may be used numerically more often in votes, the reason for that is, when each post is not indented, which is most commonplace in a list of votes, each bullet point makes scanning and counting through the votes much easier as the eye drifts from bullet point to bullet point to easily see the start of each vote which would otherwise be lost in a wall of indiscriminate looking text. The standard is to use a bullet point accompanied with a word in BOLD text, making each start line very visible and easy to scan.

For discussion purposes, the use of bullet points is easy. It is supposed to be used when making a list of individual points. Often a post will start of with some text introducing the list or other point of discussion, then a list of bulleted points, then some more text to conclude and sign off, and variations on that theme. It's not a Wikipedia theme. It's just adopted by Wikipedia from common formats, i.e. mainly text-book formatting.

Then # produces numbered lists, similar to bulleted points, applications are obvious.

Using (***) or (:::) cannot be uniform in each case because there is a purpose to (***). Forcing one or the other will not improve presentation of text and is unlikely to be accepted, at least on the, where most people, although they will use these codes in various ways, will have a good idea of why these tools are useful. It would be like enforcing a spellchecker. You'd come up with no spelling mistakes, but then I couldn't post a word or lettering which is not in the dictionary. How am I supposed to discuss algebra in that case?

In my experience ":::*" is the standard way used to indent with a bullet point (as opposed to "*:::"). The only problem with mixing indentation styles is that posters do not undrstand how to make the length match. If the last post was ":::*" and I indented with "::::" which means another ":" added, the text will not indent. I must add one for the "*" also, and then the text will appear indented.

I may think the reply scheme as linked on the beta bluster is going to be an improvement for several reasons, and support it on strong terms should they be required. However, as someone who types rapidly with about four fingers, I make a lot of errors, which I usually catch as soon as they are made, before posting, but I think I need to be able to edit my text quite easily. I'd like to see the section edit button stay there. I would suggest with both the reply and section edit available in that style, the reply will become the standard used button except for correcting errors. In fact, I'd suggest have an edit button beside the reply button, and a section edit button in this format. I suspect motivation behind removing the edit button may include such things as entering many replies at one time, which can make review of postings difficult. With this new proposed format, I expect that behaviour would become frowned on because it would be much easier to use the reply button.

Sorry for the length, as the old joke goes, I didn't have time to write less.!

Arthur Rubin (talkcontribs)

Well, "::*", ":::*", is not read properly by screen readers. It's supposed to be "*", "*:", "*::", "*:::", etc.Each further indent is supposed have a single character added, the character being ":", "*", or "#".

RTG (talkcontribs)

This seems more sensible, and yet, I have noticed this quite specifically because when I indent, I copy the one above having seen discussions before which talk about broken indentation and often having made a post of mixed format only to find the text is not indented. A similar phenomenon occurs on redirects. The standard redirect call is "#REDIRECT" ... yet the system does not require capitals. "#redirect" is fine. (If you'll forgive sharing a pun, according to internet etiquette, this means editors like the page to scream at them when they are making a redirect, but not when they are doing other things...)

RTG (talkcontribs)

See in the above post, for instance, I needed a couple more commas to make it readable... Need an edit button of some sort.

RTG (talkcontribs)

Okay I see on this page there are edit buttons (however they didn't work for me and crashed loading:- "An error occurred. The error message received was: http" was the full error text)

Whatamidoing (WMF) (talkcontribs)

I edited it to put some character formatting on Arthur's comment. I hope that helps.

It sounds like, speaking very generally, ruwiki is mostly getting valid HTML, and everyone else is mostly not (except, e.g., at enwiki's AFDs, which also use lots of bulleted lists).

It's possible to specify list formatting in your reply, but if it's "standard" at a given wiki, perhaps they should consider a way to make the local convention be the default.

Sophivorus (talkcontribs)

Spanish Wikipedia uses almost exclusively ::: for indentation. Using *** is common when voting, like in the English Wikipedia, but most votes are done on pages that are not in any talk namespace but in the project namespace.

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