Topic on Talk:New requirements for user signatures

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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"?"