Latest comment: 17 years ago by Omegatron in topic Same idea with URNs

Encouragement edit

I think that this would be a great idea for the reasons given in the Pros list. IMO, we need to encourage better wiki refs and stop relying so much on other websites as sources for citations. I also don't buy the argument that since other encyclopedias and textbooks don't have many, if any footnotes, that we should follow suit. Those references, IMO, would be much improved by adding relevant and legit citations. We should strive to be better than the competition and more authoritative. Also, since we are a wiki we need to show readers just where we got our info so that they can better judge its validity. What so you Wikimedians? --mav 17:30, 24 Jan 2004 (PST)

Inappropriate edit

Footnotes/endnotes are wildly inappropriate for online reading. In fact I hate endnotes utterly for paper as well. ;) However in paper footnotes are great: they're right at the bottom of the page, so you don't have to go flipping around to find them. It's this immediate accessibility, not the "comes at the bottom of the page", that needs to be duplicated here. At the same time, we want to be able to produce orderly footnotes for printable versions given the same wiki syntax.

I'm sure we can have a "hide notes" feature, similar to the one that hides tables of contents. It could also be programmed so that when it's printed, the endnotes turn into footnotes, if desired. 16:20, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Producing expandable in-line or pop-up annotations [not pop-up windows!] for web usage would imho be much preferable for online web reading than forcing the user to the bottom of the page, from which he/she has to scroll back laboriously. Just a thought; no time to produce implementations just now. --Brion VIBBER 17:44, 24 Jan 2004 (PST)

You have a good point - I'll nix the #ref part of the proposal. I like your idea of an annotation box but I'm concerned that it may not be usable in all browsers. Would that require Java or is there an HTML way to do it? My alma mater used JavaScript for course descriptions (see [1] and click on a class number). But that may not work nicely in all browsers. --mav
(First off, thank you for attacking the problem. This has real promise.) It's more than just a browser problem. Along with Mozilla, I use a proxy server called Privoxy that blocks ads and popups and pop-unders. Without it, there would be serious danger of the computer suffering from being thrown through a window. Javascript code that pops a window on request gets past Privoxy in some cases, but not in others; the example given does not. So I'd really like a non-Javascript solution; perhaps there could be a choice by configuration option. Still, for the good of the project I could put up with the silly procedure that I have to go through to get pop-ups enabled temporarily. Dandrake 12:20, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)
1. Side Notes According to uninformed personal opinion, Sidenotes are quite nice. CSS problems might stop old browsers from rendering them. Hide/Show type control, as with TOCs would also be nice.
My personal preference would be for side notes (like the ugly one to the right of this page). They should look good on screen as well as paper. If there were many of then near then end of an article they would lengthen the page. CSS for sidenotes might also trip up old and text based browsers. - Tobin Richard

Needed for credibility edit

Whatever the format, I do not at at all agree with the idea that footnotes should be avoided because they are not traditionally a part of an encyclopedia. (Some encyclopedias have them, by the way). There is no credibility without references. No scientist would publish the smallest and meanest piece of text without documenting his sources, even if these were only hints at a review article or further reading. Some will argue, of course, that Wikipedia is not a scientific publication. Quite true, and a litttle sad also. Expert review would be a good thing. As long as we don't have that, we should at least try to document the sources or evidence for our information in an easily accessible format. Kosebamse 23:03, 24 Jan 2004 (PST)

Amen, brother. What he said. Hear, hear!
Agreed. Most encyclopedias don't use notes because (a) they are written by acknowledged subject-matter experts, and/or (b) they are peer-reviewed. Neither of these is, can, or should be necessary in Wikimedia, IF we can properly, consistently, and easily cite sources. --Kgf0 23:49, 10 November 2005 (UTC)Reply

The "Invisible Endnote" model edit

Since not everyone seems to be familiar with this...

Many popular nonfiction books, including bestsellers like "Seabiscuit," now include thorough, dense, and detailed endnotes which are invisible within the text and don't interrupt the flow of reading at all. The endnotes are simply referenced backward by chapter, page, and opening phrase. I've lent Seabiscuit to a friend so can't give an actual example, but here's the idea.

The main text of the book has no footnote or endnote apparatus in it at all. Nothing is visible to interrupt the flow of the text or the "ludic" reading experience. At the end of the main text is a section entitled "References" or the like, which typically recapitulates the chapter titles. A portion of such a section might look like this:

Chapter 10, "The Akhoond of Swat"
p. 127, "...was frequently drunk," The New York Times, April 1st, 1991
p. 131, "I hate Coca-Cola," Memoirs of a Magnate, Cubeb P. Fungus (1980), Boon and Mills
p. 133, "preferred blondes,"

The only impact on the casual reader is a slight feeling of being cheated when the text of (say) the 250-page book ends prematurely on (say) page 220 and is followed by thirty pages of references.

The model does not fit Web pages, of course, but its virtues are worthy of emulation

Yes, this is what I had in mind - and I agree with emulating its virtues 21:51, 17 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Dpbsmith 07:47, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)

We almost have "invisible endnotes" already. It's the accepted style of including a ==References== section at the end of the article. The only thing we don't have is a reference back to the part of the text the reference refers to. IMO that is all we really need. ··gracefool 11:37, 23 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Although we need info on the sources of specific statements in our articles, not just general lists of sources at the end. Hoever, all such very specific info needs to be hidden unless a reader asks for it. Impossible to do in paper, should be easy with a computer. The thing is that I think we need lots of source information, to make it trivial to verify things. Saying "oh, we list the books" isn't enough - it can take aeons to find a specific fact in a book. We ought to source in as much detail as possible - but that makes the text ugly unless it's normally hidden. Jnc 16:08, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)
From my point of view that's a total nightmare. If I find a dubious fact, I want to find the reference to it easily. But, I think that we can all be happy by simply having a CSS / user configuration option which makes the notes invisible. This can be really neat if done right since we can give a reference back to an invisible element, which the browser will jump back to and you will be able to see exactly which section of text was backed up by which note. An intermediate stage might be very unobtrusive references, e.g. something like a this ° or middot. Which mode to have on by default should be decided by a usability study on the general populace, funded by IBM :-) Mozzerati 16:26, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Proposed list of desiderata edit

  • Implementable: should be feasible to implement without excessive effort.
  • Browser-agnostic: should be robust with respect to variations in browser capabilities.
  • Selectively visible: There should be a way to avoid seeing the inline references at all, as a significant number of people dislike them. The default should probably be "off."
  • Place-preserving: the mechanism should allow for following a link without losing one's current position in the text, OR should have a backlink to allow you to return.
  • Writable: The mechanism should be easy to use (i.e. it should be a wikimedia feature).
  • Editable: The mechanism should be robust with respect to future editing. If numbered, the numbering should be automatic so that new references can be easily inserted.
  • Intrapage-linkable: current practice is to have one section called "External Links" and another called "References." System should allow for interpage references to items within these (or other) sections.

I rather think sidenotes would be nice, especially if they could be turned on or off via user preferences. If I understand mav's current proposal, it is implementable, browser-agnostic, writable, and editable, but not selectively visible or place-preserving. I'm not clear on whether it's intrapage-linkable. Dpbsmith 07:47, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)

Endnote difficult to use; in-line good edit

Reference is good, but stuffing them in a group like Endnote is bad. At least in book, you can bookmark endnote section, but online, you'd have to scroll back and forth for n times. Bad, bad. So, the more readable options online are sidenote or in-line reference ("footnote" as you call it?). --Menchi 11:05, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)

My personal reference would be for expandable in-line notations, such that all the reader sees upon first view is are notations automatically numbered and initially appearing

something [1] like [2] this [3],


something [ref:] like [ref: Connor, John. ''My Life as a Wikipedian.'' New York: Gotham Press, 2003, p. 43; ISBN 1560254289] this [ref: Caesar, Julius. The Gallic Wars],

and, unpon a click, expanding in text to

something [] like [Connor, John. My Life as a Wikipedian. New York: Gotham Press, 2003, p. 43; ISBN 1560254289 ] this [Caesar, Julius. The Gallic Wars].

No endnote/footnote section in the article itself. Additionally, the status of the footnote (abbreviated or expanded) should be one of the alterable preferences (with the default as the abbreviated [1] Granted, I don't know anything about the technical feasibility of this. Several times, I have had citations I've included in articles removed, and I'm quite annoyed by it (I think my only real annoyance with Wikipedians thus far)... so let's get a practical, reasonable, and consistent citation markup working soon. -- Seth Ilys 11:58, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)

I like Seth's idea. If I could click on a [1], and have it expand, inline, to a full citation, and click again to have it disappear, that would serve well. You could add an extra [view] link or something at the end of the citation if there's an external link.

I think if the sidenotes idea could be implemented the same way, it might be even better and easier to read. Click [1], have a sidenote appear, anchored at the appropriate line (with the article text re-flowing around it). Within the sidenote box, have a [view] and a [close] link.

We have a function to show or hide Tables of Contents now; could we not use similar functionality for this? -- CatherineMunro 13:29, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)

Why don't we make the text of the reference be a tooltip implemented using JavaScript? It seems we will need to use JavaScript for any dynamic design; the Table of Contents feature uses it too. (We could make a tooltip using the TITLE attribute, but that's not what the attribute is intended for.) Using a tooltip would make it easier to read the footnote, because it would save two clicks or one click and a scroll. It would not replace the References or Footnotes section; I think it is still necessary for those browsers that don't suppport JavaScript. -- 08:29, 4 Jun 2004 (UTC)

My prime concern is that the fancier the feature, the more likely it is to break on older/simpler browsers. That said, unsquashable notes, javascript pop-ups and collapsable side-boxes all sound like good ideas which could be switched on in preferences where desired. (Although unsquashability doesn't have to be dynamic - it could be like the comments system my friend wrote for his blog: [2]) For a more general model, I've always found the use of html anchors (as in "foo#bar") that link down to a footnote section, and then link back up to the text to provide a simple but elegant solution, which should work in just about all browsers, AFAIK. This is the style h2g2 uses, for example [3]. (note the use of the title attribute to produce a tooltip in most browsers) - IMSoP 22:40, 25 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The h2g2 model is the one worth pursuing, I agree. It's simple to implement, and easy to use for both reader and writer. It also meshes well with our use of popups to indicate piped link targets. --MartinHarper
I also like this design for references. Now, if several parts of the text refer to the same thing, the footnote would have to be duplicated once for each reference. -- 08:17, 4 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I found this system just slightly confusing. It is a viable possibility; perhaps it would be improved by including an explicit [back] link with each footnote to make clear to the reader that he could go back to where he was reading (it took me about 5 seconds to figure out to click on the footnote number, and I knew what I was looking for). -- Seth Ilys 23:01, 25 Jan 2004 (PST)
Perhaps the links should read "[back to text]" -- 08:17, 4 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Any progress on this? CatherineMunro 02:37, 4 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Feature request: footnotes edit

Discussion moved here from Village Pump. Dpbsmith 20:02, 23 Dec 2003 (UTC)
and later moved from MediaWiki feature request and bug report discussion .

In ordinary writing, I find footnotes very useful when I want to unburden myself of a detail that gets in the way of the main narrative, but that I really think ought to be on the record for some reason. It would seem to me that footnotes could be improvised using HTML or current Wiki markup, but in fact footnotes (or any equivalent) are not used in Wikipedia articles, and are not mentioned in the "how to edit" page.

Are footnotes considered harmful?

If not, why don't they seem to be used—and if I want to drop in a footnote, what's the best way to do so with current markup? Dpbsmith 16:07, 20 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Footnotes anchored to the actual notes at the bottom of a page would be nice. Right now the only way to have footnotes is to provide an external link like this [4]. But that is useless for referencing anything off-line. But footnotes should never replace a ==References== section. This thread really should be at meta:MediaWiki feature request and bug report discussion. --mav 16:27, 20 Dec 2003 (UTC)
You could use "...blah blah blah.<sup>1</sup>" which results in "...blah blah blah.1" Or even "...blah blah blah.<sup><small>2</small></sup>" , which results in "...blah blah blah.2"
However, this technique is completely manual, and you'd have to renumber things (manually) if a footnote was inserted, deleted, or moved. Furthermore, on many browsers, this messes up the line spacing. And it's not a link, either.
1Also, I'm not sure, but doing things this way may be frowned on.
-Anthropos 19:36, 20 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The problem with footnotes is that it's much harder on screen than on paper to hop back up to where you left. -- Tarquin 17:25, 21 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Not if the footnote links back to the main text, as I would think it ought to. That's the way footnotes work in some eBooks. Dpbsmith 19:59, 23 Dec 2003 (UTC)
H2G2 has a feature along these lines: I didn't hang out there long enough to get really familiar with it but I don't recall it being much more arcane than the rest of the H2G2 syntax. Phil 09:04, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)
As does OddMuse: see [5] towards the bottom for an example, plus related discussion.

Footnotes vs. References edit

It seems to me that it would be useful to separate two issues here.

  • Footnotes: additional comments in the text, similar to a parenthetical remark, which normally appear at the bottom of a page in printed text. Each footnote is referenced exactly once in the text. It is debatable whether footnotes are appropriate at all for on-line reading, and cause problems with the reader having to jump back and forth, unless you use some kind of pop-up solution.
  • References: places to go for more information ([6]). These may not be cited at all within the text; an in-text pointer to the reference is only needed if it is not clear which reference to go to for more information on a particular item, but in this case the same reference may be cited multiple times. Looking up more information is typically separate from reading the article, so jumping back-and-forth is less of an issue (using the link title tag to get a tooltip is IMHO more than sufficient).

For me, the second question, that of references, is more pressing. I'm not sure that footnotes are appropriate or needed for Wikipedia, but references certainly are needed. An auto-numbering system for references is still not that pressing in itself — the main problem is getting people to enter the reference, not the technical issue of formatting/numbering — but it is a pressing problem that there exists current auto-numbering system that is completely inadequate (treats online/print references differently, doesn't provide any more information than the URL, etcetera).

However, I'm not sure that the current "footnotes" proposal (besides details like the section should be called References and not Footnotes, and footnotes per se should be discouraged) is adequate for references. The main problem is that you appear to expect references to be cited exactly once within the text, and don't handle the case where the reference is only listed at the end (which should be the common case in an encyclopedia) or where it is cited multiple times. 15:06, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Agreed! A reference feature is what is needed to give checkable authority to the article; there is little need for a footnotes feature or rather it already exists. Whenever I have needed a footnotes I create a link to another/new wikipedia article. ChrisG 21:28, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Reference notes is what I am after, and they should offer no comments other than as a pointer to an outside source for fact checking and listed at the end of the article. Reference notes, within the text and as a block at the end, will allow people to build crossreferenced facts in wikipedia which will make it a much more credible source of information.

Unlike comment foot or sidenotes, the reference notes and reference note list at the end would probably be best be invisible by default like Dpbsmith said above. Also I noticed that the # symbol can be used to do automatic footnote numbering, can't this be used to automatically order the reference notes at the end?

A lot of time is being spent, at least by me, crossreferencing a lot of facts I come across. This time is being wasted though duplication unless we can keep track of crossreferencing with reference notes. -- 08:12, 14 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I concur with the division into "footnotes" and "references" (although lately we've taken to calling the latter "sources" to prevent confusion); I think the former should always be displayed, but for the latter although we need the info, it needs to be hidden unless a reader asks for it. Impossible to do in paper, should be easy with a computer. The thing is that I think we need lots of source information, to make it trivial to verify things. Saying "oh, we list the books" isn't enough - it can take aeons to find a specific fact in a book. We ought to reference in as much detail as possible. Jnc 16:03, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Fact and Reference Check edit

There is a Wikipedia Project up called Fact and Reference Check. There is a good example of how referencing could happen.

Being able to have referencing <tags> would be good. --ShaunMacPherson 07:30, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Much as I want to see the 'Pedia much better sourced, that is just plain ugly. Sorry! We need the info, but it needs to be hidden unless a reader asks for it. Impossible to do in paper, should be easy with a computer. Jnc 15:29, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Two (working) ideas edit

  • use CSS based tooltips. Currently this has a browserdepency (works in Mozilla and Opera, not in IE). See en:User:Taka/Tooltips.
  • Use footnotes with the current wikipedia technology. The innovation (?) here is creating anchors using a div element. See en:User:Taka/Footnotes

Footnote/references solution edit

I visited this page due to a difficulty on a Wikipedia article. The difficulty was that the matter was controversial and unfamiliar so there was a lot of legal and documentary background within the article. I've read the above, here's a ready to use solution with the following features:

  • Allows inline footnotes to expand and vanish clearly without having to visit the bottom of the page each time.
  • Uses bare minimum of code (10 lines)
  • Easily portable to any browser (uses one standard function and one property)
  • Fast enough not to show
  • Easy to add to WikiMedia
  • Supports short references or intricately formatted ones equally cleanly
  • Automatically shrinks when closed or when another reference opened
  • Intuitive for Wiki writers:
  • article article <info title="TITLE TEXT">Reference text</info> article article...
  • Intuitive for Wiki users:
  • Inline visible heading which expands immediately below without overwriting the existing text, for easy following, and vanish automatically after.

Example of this wiki-code in use: edit

"The legal documents <info title="Summary of legal requirements">
Info link []</info> show that technically this is not quite accurate

This would normally appear in the article as:

The legal documents (Summary of legal requirements) show that technically this is not quite accurate.

and when clicked would appear roughly as follows:

The legal documents (Summary of legal requirements)
(Note) Summary of legal requirements:             
MORE TEXT                      
YET MORE TEXT                    
Info link [7]                    
(click to hide)                      
show that technically this is not quite accurate.

The wiki-code for an Infolink expands to HTML like this:

The legal documents 
     <font color="#FFFFFF" style="background-color: #333399">
     <a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(25)">(Summary of legal requirements)</a></font>
     <div id="infotext25" style="display:none; background-color:#FFFF66">
     <b>(Note) Summary of legal requirements:</b>
         MORE TEXT
         YET MORE TEXT
         Info link []
     <a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(-1)">(click to hide)</a></font>
 show that technically this is not quite accurate"

Notes on the tiny amount of script edit

  • It's very short (a handful of lines) and very easily ported.
  • It's my own (so I hereby state it's public domain and give permission etc to anyone to use)
  • Its basic logic is: loop through all "div"s whose titles start "INFOTEXT..." setting them all to style=NONE (Text hidden), except the one given as an argument which is set to style=BLOCK (Text shown). Duh!
  • Calling it with argument (-1) closes the current reference too.
  • All Infoboxes should be allocated a number from 1 upwards, as references are. They don't have to be sequential, if there isnt a DIV called "Infobox17" it just skips it. This is done, like reference numbering, when it's rendered.
  • Calling ShowInfoBox(n) displays info reference #n, and simultaneously collapses any other infoboxes already open.
  • Calling ShowInfoBox(-1) hides all infoboxes including the present one.
  • There is no preset limit to number of Infoboxes
  • [MAX_INFO_BOXES] = no. of boxes on the page (dynamically calculated when page is rendered)
  • It may be necessary to move the focus before hiding the current infobox, on some browsers, but thats not the case when I've tested it.

Sample web page HTML edit

The following code is "ready to use" for folks to see what I mean, on Internet Explorer. It should also work with other browsers. Copy the text "as is", save it in a text file as "Infobox.html" (not Infobox.html.txt), open in Internet Explorer or other browser and voila! Easy References!


<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-gb">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">

<script language="javascript">
     function ShowInfoBox(InfoBoxToShow) {
         for (i=0; i<=99; i++) {
             try {
                 document.getElementById("infotext"  + i).style.display = 
                 (i == InfoBoxToShow) ? "block" : "none"
             catch (e) {


The legal documents 
<a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(25)"><font color="#FFFFFF" style="background-color: #333399">(Summary of legal requirements)</font></a>
<div id="infotext25" style="display:none; background-color:#FFFF66"><hr>
     <b>(Note) Summary of legal requirements:</b> <br>
     MORE TEXT <br>
     YET MORE TEXT <br>
     Info link [] <br>
     <b><a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(-1)">(click to hide)</a></b><hr>
show that technically this is not quite accurate. A large number of banana companies believe:<br>
1 - they are legally allowed to, and <br>
2 - the government is trying to pander to the apple-growers lobbyists. <br>
Some farmers are becoming quite violent over this propspect.<p>
Moreover the <a href="">Lord High Auditor</a> says that under a possible obscure law from the 1730's 
<a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(26)"><font color="#FFFFFF" style="background-color: #333399">(Details of relevant commonlaw)</font></a>
<div id="infotext26" style="display:none; background-color:#FFFF66"><hr>
     <b>(Note) Details of relevant commonlaw:</b> <br>
     Details on the 1732 law on Banana Packaging<br>
     MORE DETAILS <br>
     Legal opinion #1 <br>
     Legal opinion #2 <br>
     Evidence, email from's CEO <br>
     Source: [] <br>
     <b><a href="javascript: ShowInfoBox(-1)">(click to hide)</a></b><hr>
it is possible that all the assets of Banana wielding companies may be frozen pending a Supreme Court decision.<p></p>



Wiki code for the above edit

The wiki-code for this would be very easy:

The legal documents <info title="Summary of legal requirements">
Info link []</info>
show that technically this is not quite accurate. A large number of banana companies believe:
# they are legally allowed to, and 
# the government is trying to pander to the apple-growers lobbyists. 

Some farmers are becoming quite violent over this propspect.

Moreover the [ Lord High Auditor] says that under a possible obscure law 
from the 1730's <info title="Details of relevant commonlaw">
Details on the 1732 law on Banana Packaging
Legal opinion #1 
Legal opinion #2 
Evidence, email from's CEO 
Source: []</info>
it is possible that all the assets of Banana wielding companies may be frozen 
pending a Supreme Court decision.



Yet another solution: "ref" and "endnote" templates edit

I didn't see this page before I went and added another footnote "solution". Mine doesn't expand inline or anything (though I don't really see the value in that anyway) and it's not automatically numbered, but it's dead simple and it already works. You put {{ref|foo}} where you want the annotation, and then put {{endnote|foo}} in front of the footnote text. (I called it an "endnote" because Template:Footnote was already taken.) Of course, you replace "foo" with whatever text you want to use, whether numbers or an asterisk or whatever.

This scheme has a side benefit that all uses can be found by checking what links to Template:Ref and Template:Endnote. That way, whenever we decide what footnote scheme should be used, we can chase all the existing uses and update them.

You can see an example of it on my use page. --P3d0

rapid reference and footnotes edit

From a users point of view, I suggest some features for a tool creating in-text-references and footnotes much faster:

  • Generate a form (popup, another window, new editorial feature on wiki, etc.) with defined textboxes to fill in all data about the reference or the content of the footnote (also useful for adding foreign language references according to the guidelines) Then you press an OK button and it adds the in-text-message for this reference/footnote at the current cursor position.
  • A memory (with an userarchieve) function for old references would reduce typing a lot, especially if you have minor edits like different pages of the same book.
  • As long as it goes rapid I do not mind how many citations appear. Of course, it would be good if we could point to the same reference several times. With the current reference system, the only possibility occuring to me, is agglomerating identical in-text-references under the same in-text-citation number.

Greetings Wandalstouring 10:48, 15 August 2006 (UTC)Reply

Same idea with URNs edit

I think I had basically the same idea; use the old bracketed link style for all citations, but use generic URNs instead of only URLs, so you could refer to books by ISBN [8] or to journal articles by SICI. Then have the reference information automatically generated from a database and have javascript pop-ups instead of a stupid References section. No one liked my idea. See [Wikipedia_talk:Cite_sources/archive_13#So_is_This_a_Hypertext_Encyclopedia_or_What.3F short discussion]. — Omegatron 17:37, 6 November 2006 (UTC)Reply

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