Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive D1

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Years and dates archives

A new parallel syntax for autoformatting dates

Text of initial request

Please create an additional syntax for autoformatting dates that does not make hyperlinks to date pages. The current syntax conflates the two independent functions of autoformatting and linking. The current syntax is simple; it would be an advantage if the additional syntax were also simple.
The new syntax is conceived not as a replacement but as an alternative, retaining (1) the option to link to a chronological article where useful, and (2) the validity of the huge number of date-links already marked up in the project.
There are significant advantages to allowing autoformatted dates to be black rather than blue, where there is consensus to do so in an article. Specifically, reducing the density of blued-out links will:
(1) improve the readability of the text;
(2) improve the aesthetic appearance of the text;
(3) remove low-value chronological links that may lead readers to pages that are irrelevant to an article;
(4) increase the prominence of high-value links;
(5) reduce the spill-over effect, in which editors feel they should link centuries, decades, and bare years, months and days of the week; and
(6) reduce conflict.
This request is signed by numerous Wikipedians. Some supporters have suggested specific mark-ups, such as <<date>>, but on balance it is considered best that the developers use their expertise to choose the most appropriate mark-up.

Tony 10:25, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

List of supporters

Please add your name here if you agree in principle for your name to be listed in the initial request. The more names the better. At any stage before the request, you can of course remove your name. --Tony 05:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

  1. Tony 05:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  2. Outriggr § 05:27, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  3. MattWright (talk) 05:36, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  4. Pinkville 14:22, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  5. Rich Farmbrough, 14:53 9 December 2006 (GMT).
  6. CRGreathouse (t | c) 16:02, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  7. Joe Kress 16:07, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  8. EdJohnston 16:29, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  9. Stephen Turner (Talk) 16:58, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  10. Kaldari 17:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
  11. Doom 20:57, 9 December 2006 (UTC) -- strongly agree: links should be human generated
  12. Pia 23:54, 9 December 2006 (UTC) -- as per Doom
  13. per Outriggr -- Agathoclea 01:03, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  14. Dhaluza 01:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC) -- Have had to clean up useless date links from several articles.
  15. Most of the time date links are irrelevant and distracting. Graham87 02:03, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  16. Punctured Bicycle 02:25, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  17. Daniel Quinlan 02:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  18. Joy [shallot] 02:41, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  19. Mad Max 03:02, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  20. Gzkn 04:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  21. Vsmith 04:40, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  22. clear and should be helpful. Hmains 05:21, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  23. VirtualSteve.pngVirtualSteve 05:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC) I support (indeed like others in this list - I have always supported this view and versions that have worked towards a similar end) - and now I await the same-same naysayer brigade...
  24. I'm all for reducing the number of irrelevant blue links. Just cleaned up some an hour back [1]. I support the move with the possibility that we can also have the a new functionality for the time too. =Nichalp «Talk»= 06:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  25. Agreed on general principle. This would help a lot with the less useful links. Tuf-Kat 06:32, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  26. Warmly agreed in principle. (But couldn't the request be phrased in a way that's less pompous but just as clear? Or perhaps all such requests hereabouts are phrased in this style; I really don't know.) -- Hoary 08:07, 10 December 2006 (UTC) .... PS in response to Tony's invitation on my talk page, I hurriedly revised this request there. I find President Lethe's proposal below (and as elaborated here) very persuasive. -- Hoary 22:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC) ... PPS struck though obsolete material 00:51, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  27. Support the idea. --Guinnog 08:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  28. Strong support, I previously campaigned for this; hopefully we'll get someone to implement it in MediaWiki this time. Quarl (talk) 2006-12-10 08:39Z
  29. Cuñado Bahai star.svg - Talk 10:08, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  30. Kusma (討論) 10:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  31. Wackymacs 11:57, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  32. Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 12:01, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  33. Ground Zero | t 12:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  34. Donald Albury 13:53, 10 December 2006 (UTC) Keep the request simple/single issue.
  35. Fritz Saalfeld (Talk) 15:32, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  36. --Paul 15:35, 10 December 2006 (UTC) I support this request. The current method in addition to the faults mentioned above is non-intuitive and consufing.
  37. I strongly support this proposal. Links should support and advance the primary focus of the article. Michael David 15:47, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  38. Wetman 15:49, 10 December 2006 (UTC) As Michael said, Links should support and advance the primary focus of the article.
  39. Deckiller 15:58, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  40. Zundark 16:11, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  41. Yes, and I tried to lead the charge on this the last time, too. --Cyde Weys 16:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  42. Good idea, full support in principle, presuming some appropriate syntax can be found. — Matt Crypto 16:51, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  43. President Lethe 17:33, 10 December 2006 (UTC) — I support this with reservations and/or extra requirements. See my comments here and immediately above this section [moved there by Tony].
  44. Kirill Lokshin 17:49, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  45. KP Botany 18:03, 10 December 2006 (UTC) Oh, absolutely support this, as simply cannot understand why the date I accessed a web reference should be blue linked. Check out the Afghanistan article, and related, some time to see the absurdity of links that ruins articles on Wikipedia.
  46. I like the wording and context. Kudos to getting this restarted. -- nae'blis 18:20, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  47. I support the idea, specifically the request as expressed in the proposal. I reserve my opinion about other issues and suggestions raised in the comments to the proposal. RossPatterson 19:04, 10 December 2006 (UTC) As I noted in reply to the initial proposal:

    I'm with Outriggr and Tony1. I agree in principle that auto-formatted non-linking dates is a Very Good Idea, and that the worst thing we can do in support of that idea is to over-specify it. The first sentence of the request should be the entire request, with the remainder justifying it. RossPatterson 19:04, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

  48. Support. The fact that dates must be linked in order to autoformat is terrible. Dates should be linked only when it is useful to link them, i.e. when the date's article is likely to be of interest to the reader. Dates should never be linked under other circumstances, and the software should provide a way to implement this without losing the autoformat capability.--Srleffler 20:00, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
  49. Long overdue. Something like ||February 10|| would be ideal. --RobthTalk 21:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
    • ||February 10|| would clash with table syntax. (This is why I think we should let the developers decide on the syntax: they're in the best position to think about these things). Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:29, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  50. Stratadrake 00:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  51. Date linking and format preferences have different purposes. Don't overload them; it devalues highly relevant date links and overvalues totally irrelevant date links (e.g. 2006), and has collateral effects. —Centrxtalk • 01:27, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  52. Neier 02:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  53. Hesperian 06:27, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  54. It'd be a huge improvement. —Moondyne 08:10, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  55. Agree, black should be the default with linked dates available for useful context. .. dave souza, talk 09:14, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  56. Oh, yes, I'm a supporter. This might reduce mindless rollbacks as well. Thincat 10:18, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  57. EJ 13:34, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  58. Curtis Clark 17:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC) Support in principle.
  59. Hemmingsen 20:05, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  60. Support as per user Centrx, date linking and format preferences have different purposes Golden Wattle talk 20:15, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  61. Quiddity 21:46, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  62. ArmadilloFromHell Oh, I can only hope, the current proliferation of year links makes them all but useless ArmadilloFromHellGateBridge 21:53, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  63. Seems to be a good idea. Jkelly 22:04, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  64. Sounds like a good idea ••gracefool | 03:52, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  65. --Duk 04:43, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  66. Like the idea a lot. Sandy (Talk) 21:10, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  67. AnonEMouse (squeak) 21:45, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
  68. Brilliant idea. Singkong2005 · talk 06:58, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
  69. Neonumbers 08:03, 13 December 2006 (UTC) Fully agree in principle.
  70. I hope this goes through! — Reinyday, 18:14, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
  71. Chairman S. TalkContribs 13:02, 17 December 2006 (UTC) This is an intelligent solution to the problem of date linking, and I support it wholeheartedly.
  72. Absolutely. --Spangineerws (háblame) 19:49, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
  73. Keesiewonder 02:07, 5 January 2007 (UTC) If when I wikilinked, I received a list of all other important events that happened on that month-day, that'd be neat. But if all I find out is it is day X on the Gregorian calendar ... it seems pretty useless ... other than for displaying dates in the form of my preferences.
  74. Good idea. --tjstrf talk 02:10, 5 January 2007 (UTC)
  75. Excellent idea - esp per points 3 and 5 --Orderinchaos78 01:47, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
  76. Strong support Jimp 01:34, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
  77. Oh my yes! Make links explicit (once in a while they actually are needed) rather than implicit (most of the time they are not) ++Lar: t/c 05:29, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
  78. I would like that very much. Schmiteye 00:28, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
  79. Linked dates, and cities, countries etc, that have no special relevance to the article is an unnecessary eyesore.Strongly agree.Momento 10:18, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
  80. If articles can't be marked up in accordance with common sense and Wikipedia guidelines, so as only to link significant terms, then this is a reasonable move. It's just a pity that it's necessary. --Phronima 11:30, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
  81. This would be a great improvement. —Celithemis
  82. I support this proposal. The ideal solution would be a coding format that would both render the reader’s date formatting preference AND permit “year in XYZ” linking. If full dates cannot be piped, then the “Year in XYZ” timeline pages need to be deprecated and removed since we’d be left with every date being given simply as the year once the bot’s work is done. Askari Mark (Talk) 02:46, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
  83. Strong support Please can we do this for full dates ASAP, preferably using Iso8601 format, and then work on how to add times, timezones, periods, etc —Joe Llywelyn Griffith Blakesley talk contrib 12:19, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
  84. Support Good proposal. Personally, I could do without autoformatting all together. How many people actually change the setting in their preferences, and is is it really worth all the trouble? --Apoc2400 06:02, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
  85. Hell yes, support! Fixing this would be vast improvement, esp. if it were usable with wikilinking, e.g. <<7 March [[2007 in sports|2007]]>>SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 23:14, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
  86. Support Oh yes, please, please, please. For all the reasons given in the request. – Kieran T (talk) 23:23, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
  87. Suppodrt I have favored some such proposal for a long time. DES (talk) 22:47, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
  88. Strong support. I hate blue dates.Verisimilus 14:50, 10 April 2007 (UTC)


Please debate the autoformatting/linking issue here, and keep the text and list of supporters relatively simple and neat. Please note that this is framed as a "minimalist" request, under the assumption that that is most likely to succeed. Tony 07:22, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I have one: Let the developers expand colon-prefixed wikilinking (e.g., [[:2006]]) to distinguish whether or not to wikilink (or blue-link) an auto-formatted date. Since we already use the colon syntax to produce text wikilinks to categories and images, expanding it to dates would be simple and easy for everyone to learn.

  • Method 1: [[December 10]] produces a non-linked (or black-linked) date, while [[:December 10]] produces a blue-linked date. I believe this is the more intuitive option, but it is not necessarily backwards compatible.
  • Method 2 - Vice versa: [[December 10]] produces a blue-linked date, while [[:December 10]] produces a non-linked (or black-linked) date. This is backwards compatible, only low-importance links need to be changed. But it is arguably less intuitive to adjust to.

If added into the proposal text, then this would let the developers know that we have specific ideas on exactly how to address the issue (rather than merely saying what the issue is and leaving all the rest to the developers), however no solution is perfect, and not everyone may agree on exactly what the solution should be. --00:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Still retains problem of how would you perform a link to a full date article (some of which exist, such as August 13, 2004) *and* keep user preferences working. If they come up with a new syntax, hopefully it can handle flexible, optional linking. --MattWright (talk) 00:34, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't know for certain, but I suspect that user date preferences should apply only to the text of a wikilinked date (same effect as a piped link) and not the actual target article. --Stratadrake 00:48, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Alternately, I suppose triple-brackets is another option, e.g., [[[December 10]]] versus [[December 10]], where both are auto-formatted, one is linked but the other is not. And the target article for a given date probably already has redirects set up to accommodate different user preferences. (Which is probably a good idea to implement anyway....)) --Stratadrake 00:50, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Upon further retrospect (and review of the current proposal version), I'm going to summarize all that -- developers implement a solution by which:
  • All existing date-formatted links are rendered in black text instead of blue, and for high-value dates of interest we use the colon prefix or triple-brackets to make them appear blue-linked.
  • OR vice versa, existing links are unaffected and we apply the colon prefix or triple-brackets to turn low-value / non-relevant date links as black (normal) text.
--Stratadrake 01:02, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I think both of these options are sub-par to other proposals I've seen, such as a {{date|}} template or new syntax for preferences such as <<date>> or ||date||. They do not address linking to full dates ([[January 10, 2007|[[:January 10]] [[:2007]]]] seems unlikely to please) and also don't take the comma issue that others have raised into account. This proposal was left without a specific syntax defined so that a clear voice can be heard that change is needed. The developers are smart and can either come up with syntax they want to implement (syntax isn't even that important, as long as it gets the job done) or solicit the community for ideas. That's my opinion anyway. --MattWright (talk) 02:42, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
||date|| would clash with table syntax. Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

:Would the simplier solution be for WP software to parse any text that has the valid name of a month and a valid day (in either order) and just display the date based on preference, not requiring any text encoding at all to handle this? Thus 'January 20' or '20 January' could be in the text and would simply be displayed correctly because the WP software would be smart enough to know what to do. I could code this to happen with my own software programs; I am sure WP software could do this also. Hmains 02:00, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

There are cases where this is incorrect (inside of quoted text, article names, etc.) --MattWright (talk) 02:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
(Sorry if this comment isn't in the best place.) Of course, if we stopped worrying about the readers who somehow don't know that "December 10" means "10 December" (or vice versa), then we wouldn't have to bother with any of this stuff about HTMLing the blue out of links, or using triple brackets or colons or bracey templates or angle brackets, &c. Rather than develop new encoding, why not just stop trying to accomodate a very silly aspect of pickiness? Think about it: how long would this discussion last if it were about magically encoding "color" to be "colour" and vice versa? And is Wikipedia really made superior by having this "One way of writing a date results in multiple ways of displaying it" function? It's true that, at some other websites, you can choose how you want your dates displayed; but this applies only to automatic dates, not to, say, the body of a message posted by someone at a forum. I really don't think Wikipedia is made better by expanding the realm of date variability; I do think a ton of editors who could be improving Wikipedia's content in more-important ways are being distracted by this niggling little matter. If people can learn to add a third colon or HTML, or to put the comma outside of the upcoming quotation marks, and if they can tell that "standardize" is just about the same as "standardise", then they probably can get used to reading and writing dates in just one way for one website. — President Lethe 03:34, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, the real issue is merely that the only way to auto-format dates in Wikipedia articles is to wikilink them. This results in visual clutter, links with no relevance to the article or context in question, etc. And btw, I experimented with trying to make a template to do something like this, but the simple and obvious approach to templating it didn't work (it black-colored the link perfectly, but didn't autoformat the date), Wikipedia software does not (yet) support the string ParserFunctions defined by Meta, and I don't think templates have any means to access user preferences to figure out what date format to use. --Stratadrake 04:45, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I've been thinking more about this, inspired partly by a message left at my Talk page; and I think that the following is both the simplest of the options that I favor and the simplest to implement:
Let's think about what we do for all the rest of Wikipedia. It boils down to exactly three points:
• (1) in some aspects of written style, we have one rule for everyone to follow (for example, you don't use an unspaced hyphen when an em dash is in order);
• (2) for certain style issues, writers and editors use a variety of standards (for example, whether to write "color" or "colour", and whether SI units are the main ones or the ones in parentheses), and readers have to read articles as they're written (there's no fancy little tool that converts neighbour to neighbor and vice versa);
• (3) the main kind of special encoding used is just for making cross-references, and the only way in which a cross-reference can be made to be displayed as anything other than the name that it points to is with piping (e.g., [[one|two]] shows up as "two" but points to the "one" article).
We could apply this same logic, which has worked fairly satisfactorily for the entire rest of Wikipedia, to the date issue. If we do this, allowing dates to continue to be written with their components in multiple orders (e.g., "10 December" and "December 10"), and removing from the present form of date encoding this magical display variability, then we get these results:
• Picky writers are allowed to put dates in whichever format (from a short list of acceptable standards) they prefer. (This is already what happens.)
• Picky readers sometimes have to tolerate dates in formats that they don't prefer (just as they have to accept color or colour). (This already happens every time a date isn't encoded as a link or isn't written according to the MoS's guidelines, and happens in comma screwups with some coded links.)
• Dates are encoded only for the purpose of cross-referencing. (This is the rule that we already use for everything else at Wikipedia (make it a link only if your point is to link to another page). And the question of when a cross-reference is or isn't relevant will continue to be a point for individual little disputes.)
• Nobody spends any time designing new syntax and putting it into the programming, and nobody spends time learning it and trying to stick it into thousands and thousands of dates.
As far as I can tell, there is no simpler way of handling this (unless, of course, we just leave everything as it is, and continue with these battles and discussions). Even my own other proposals are more complicated than this way. This way is so simple: everything remains the same, except for two points—namely, (1) that whoever programs Wikipedia to work as it works just removes the bits that make encoded dates show up differently for different users, and (2) that battles about linking end up being only about relevant cross-referencing and not how the date appears to various readers.
President Lethe 06:12, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Comment. Preslethe, while I agree with many of your points, the formatting/spelling issues are a complicated compromise on Wikipedia, and proposals for radical change are unlikely to succeed. That is why I've made the request as simple as possible, while hoping that it treads on no one's toes in an area that has tended to be emotive.

I can assure you that if the launching of the request is followed by debate, uncertainty, and a cascade of technical suggestions, it will fail again. To succeed, a simple, unitary argument needs to be put in one fell swoop, period, no further discussion or disarray, just let them assess it and, we hope, act. That's the reason for signing the request with 50+ names: all speaking at once.

We need to avoid (1) possible problems with back-compatibility, (2) offending those who—for whatever reason—want to retain blue chronological items, and (3) complication. The developers do NOT want to enter contentious debates; it's just easier for them to say "no" than to become wound up in unpleasant politics. Getting them to add this parallel syntax will be a major step, and will bring a number of significant improvements that we'll all enjoy. PLEASE, let it go in its simple form, and allow the technical experts to apply their skills. Tony 07:35, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Hear, hear. Every previous move to change this has petered out in a discussion of the pros and cons of different syntaxes. So let's just ask that we can somehow format without linking, and let the developers decide how to do it. Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:26, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Suggestion: the new syntax should also deal with, or be extendable later to deal with date ranges. Reason 3-5 July has to become [3 July] - [5 July] ATM. In general, ask for the implementation to be forward looking. Rich Farmbrough, 17:48 11 December 2006 (GMT).
  • Suggestion: mention the comma thing. Rich Farmbrough, 17:59 11 December 2006 (GMT).
  • Suggestion: make the syntax extendable later to convert to preferred units (lb/kg, etc). Quarl (talk) 2006-12-13 22:02Z
I'm pretty sure preferenced unit conversion isn't going to make it into Wikipedia. I modified the code to do this, even taking significant units into account, and was basically told it was a bad idea according to the wikitech mailing list. [2] --MattWright (talk) 22:20, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I see, that's unfortunate and unexplained. Thanks for trying! Quarl (talk) 2006-12-13 23:51Z

Unfortunately I've found the developers to be fairly picky about not imposing their will on the community (which is not so unfortunate when you think about it), so my fear is that if we send them a "IB PFI" message, they'll kick it right back as rejected until we give them a syntax as well. That being said, I think we can succeed by a) giving them a list of concerns such as date-range extensibility and retaining wikilinks where appropriate, or b) using an up-down poll for the principle and approval voting (or whatever) for the syntax options discussed so far. -- nae'blis 21:32, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

The community has put forward many great syntax options, but it always devolves into an argument. This proposal is saying "we need a change". No one has yet disputed that we do need a change. Specific syntax will be disputed. Who better to select from the excellent syntax options that have been presented than the developers who know how it will affect future plans, Wikipedia, and the rest of the mediawiki universe? I also don't think it would be terrible to "cross that bridge when we come to it" if they do decide to kick it back to the community. --MattWright (talk) 00:54, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I may well be wrong, as this discussion has grown far beyond my capability to follow it (condensing it a bit, anyone?), but while everybody seems to agree that "we need a change" I see a lot of different ways to intend that; many seem to focus on the color of the text, for instance. All in all, I think I'd prefer eliminating preferences altogether to any half-backed solution which considers dates only, and tries to cope with the developers' capriciousness (though the captatio benevolentiae in the final part of the proposal text might well do the job :-)). After all, I've never seen anyone complaining they didn't like how their paper encyclopedia was spelling dates out as long as there was no ambiguity. —Gennaro Prota•Talk 20:49, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough, I am perfectly happy to be found too pessimistic by the consensus of the group. :) -- nae'blis 19:51, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I intend to pursue the matter further if our representation is ignored. Tony 01:17, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

A lot of the requests I see here could be solved by a rollout of clever templates. e.g. data ranges. I'd like to see dates encapsulated in templates like: {{dmy}} (for day, month, year), {{dm}} (for day and month), {{my}} (for month and year), {{my range}} for a month and year date range), etc.

e.g. {{dmy|18|December|2006}}

What we need is some mechanism that permits us to implement such templates while honouring users' date preferences. This might be something as simple as a #DATEPREF magic variable. Hesperian 04:53, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

I thought to templates too when reading the MoS pages about dashes, hyphens, beams and motes (;-)) but in fact such usages would be workarounds of software deficiencies (as many existing templates are, for instance {{ISSN search link}}, which I created myself for lack of a better solution). And in this case they would still need a new software feature. Unfortunately (or very fortunately) Wikipedia has pushed MediaWiki to its limits; I don't know if its authors ever had in mind something similar in extent and complexity but certainly the software can't cope with it. It would be the software responsibility, for instance, to convert between units and number notations (at least if we are serious about avoiding human errors). And we are in desperate need of an SCM system. I'd see with enthusiasm a (long-term) project to create a full-fledged content manager, perhaps around SVN, and a migration of all the Wikipedia contents to it. —Gennaro Prota•Talk 05:26, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
The reason I would be sceptical about using templates like that is that they're (let's be fair) not that intuitive for newcomers (neither would other options, but this is even less so), and the syntax, well, it's rather intrusive for something so common and it'd be difficult to persuade people to actually use it. I mean, I know it's not that long, but imagine writing that out every time you had to write a date. I guess this is why we're leaving it to the developers. Neonumbers 06:44, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
I had another idea for a potential syntax (since it's been mentioned that, if we have one in mind, that might make the developers' job a bit easier), for an auto-formatted but non wikilinked date, what if we could simply type it in as a piped link with no target e.g. [[ |December 20]]. It's obvious the link doesn't actually go anywhere, and when that is the case the Wiki software could format the date text per user preferences. Intuitive and fully backwards compatible (we could organize date de-linking campaigns later), so it's another viable option for a syntax suggestion. --Stratadrake 13:36, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Update on progress

After receiving no substantive reply, we now have one from developer "Simetrical"> S/he suggests that the conflation of autoformatting and linking may be an issue, and that it is solvable with effort, an effort that s/he is unwilling to provide. There's a suggestion that one or more of the other developers may be willing to review code that is written by one of us. Rob Church is kindly working on one now for this purpose, and two other signatories here have expressed a cautious interest in being involved some time next month.

I suppose that the summary message is:

(1) persistence and active code-writing will be required to generate interest among the developers; (2) it won't be a speedy process; and (2) once an acceptable code is written, and successfully reviewed by the developers, it becomes a matter of having the new syntax approved, which is not a foregone conclusion.

I'll be reminding the developers occasionally of the growing list of signatories, so please advise your fellow WPians if they may be interested in signing on.

Tony 06:30, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

One or more, may, review (not "implement it")… Wow! Didn't he add a perhaps too? —Gennaro Prota•Talk 15:35, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
Interested parties may wish to view Rob Church's blog for updates on his progress. In particular, there is a working version of Rob's parser hook solution at his personal wiki. Gzkn 08:02, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Dear supporters,
Rob Church has posted the following update:
"Just to follow up...most of the work for the DateParser class is now done, and the FormatDates extension has been checked into Subversion. I need to find some time to write an exhaustive set of test cases for it, and run some profiling checks on it.
The extension, for those who weren't following, introduces a <date> tag."
It's very pleasing to know that progress is being made, although there's a way to go yet. Many thanks to Rob for his efforts! Tony 07:44, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

What it really should do is format all dates, and then you can use nowiki tags to escape. Then you don't need to do anything special to format the vast majority of dates and you don't need any more HTML-esque markup cluttering up our articles. It's the wiki way. — Omegatron 21:31, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

Suggested solution

A template, we'll call it {{nldate|(the date)}}. The code is as follows:

<span class="nldate">{{#time:{{#ifexist:Special:Mypage/datefmt|{{Special:Mypage/datefmt}}|[[Y]]-[[m-d]]}}</span>

The span/class allows users to have monobook.css changing the color to black if they don't want to figure out date formats. --Random832(tc) 20:40, 31 January 2007 (UTC)