Organizational and technical specification for advanced Cite extension (first draft)

Update: Please take a look at the Meta Wikimedia page Wikidata.

Cite extension was a great step forward when Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason made it in 2005. However, there are a number of possible supplements: both, technical and organizational.

I am describing here a set of technical and organizational specifications for Cite extension improvements. This is the first draft and you are welcome to comment it. If there are more interests in this issue, I’ll copy it on Meta Wikimedia (yes, on Meta because it is not only a technical issue).

  • There is a need for at least two different categories of endnotes: references and notes. References are about sources, notes are about better explanation of the facts. The third endnote type should be “Further reading” (while it is not related to the present situation, it is related to the advanced version).
    • So, people should be able to add <ref*>s and <note*>s.
    • It should be possible to add a reference inside of a note.
  • Without structural representation of the data, references are only decoration of the articles. Yes, it is possible to see what the source is, but source relevancy is not known by default. (The only way to know relevancy is outside of Wikipedia [or MediaWiki site].)
    • So, we need a database representation of the references: Author name, source name, cited pages and all other bibliographic data. This should consist, for example, three level field categories (like “physics->theoretical physics->thermodynamics”; we should define them) and other relevant categories.
  • And, of course, we should add “further reading” works in this database.
  • Then, we need a possibility to describe sources:
    • We need a relation of two sources: are they supportive, confrontative, with ambivalent relation, or they don’t have a visible relation (maybe some other, too?). This will give to us a possibility for one of the relevant measuring methods for seeing which authors/sites/etc. are relevant and which of them are not. This part of job should be done on the local project by (for example) administrators.
    • References should go to the separate project (something like This project should have good localization possibilities (i.e. “Category:Physics” in English should be “Категорија:Физика” in Serbian).
    • Thanks to such separation, it would be possible to make a group of trusted contributors and experts who would drive this project. This would make Wikimedian project much more relevant.
    • Adding good or bad references may build contributors’ karma, which is also very useful for deciding which edits are relevant and which are not.
  • Writing sources shouldn’t be ugly.
    • Because of that I suggest making only one type of marking: something like “<ref name=”name” /> (and <note name=”name” />).
    • When user writes this inside of the text and save it (or preview it), s/he should be able to click on the area and get a form in which s/he would able to fill reference’s (or note’s) data.
  • Sources listings:
    • Inside of the article.
    • Inside of the relevant category.
    • By author.
    • By contributor.
    • (By some other relevant classifications.)

~ by millosh on October 14, 2007.

10 Responses to “Organizational and technical specification for advanced Cite extension (first draft)”

  1. Most of these suggestions are nice,but would never be able to be implemented in Wikipedia because they could never scale up to the scale we need them at. Not to mention that these extension would hit the exact same snags we do with editing of any article: people want to use the same bibliographical style they are used, they will constantly recreate the same references, references will miss more or less important parts half the time, and that’s not even taking into account that there will always be references that won’t fit into out nice little molds (God knows anybody using the cite templates hits them constantly).

  2. Highly support. Something similar was discussed during Wikimania 2006; a mod for MediaWiki was shown that allowed entering references (cite tamplates) via pop-up box (=easy). The Reference namespace was discussed, so we could ‘ilink’ references (which would have their own pages).

  3. Hello. You raise very good points. On the French Wikipedia, these issues are being worked on by a dedicated Wikiproject. We have a Référence: namespace which lists bibliographical references, andthus saves space (and improves readability) in articles. See for instance or . Of course, these would be best put on a separate website (a bit like Commons). Reference pages are sometimes used to discuss the validity of such sources.

  4. I agree that separating references from end notes is a good idea, but beyond this, I have the impression that what you are proposing for references is too complicated. The result would be that people who are not dedicated Wikipedians will find it difficult to add references to other works.

    If you are looking for a standard reference format, widely adopted in science, you could look at the bibtex format (part of Latex).
    One could well have an extension that takes references written in bibtex style, and renders them as a decent-looking reference.

    I do not really see the need for a separate site containing references. In fact, I think it would be a bad idea. One should be able to write references in the same stroke as editing the content of an article; logging into a separate site should not be needed.

  5. Oh, and there’s one options that should be easy enough to implement, though, where I agree with both you and luca, and that’s the split references and notes. Actually, adding a second parameter “section=foo” to allow for theoretically unlimited notes sections would be ideal. If that and recursive note can be implemented, half the issues people have with the cite.php extension would be solved.

  6. hiya. i was the one who demo’d something like that at mania in 06 that piotrus was talking about. We have a couple of different proof of concept implementations at this point that i would be happy to share. in the earlier version we added a couple tables to the database. (see – when you edit a page there is a “ref” button at the top; please be friendly, there is student work on there) In the more recent implementation we semi-structured the data more like a template to make it lighter.

    information sources are just as important as images or other assets to the encyclopedia–in fact, I would argue moreso. i think a separate reference site would be incredibly valuable but however it is accomplished, IMO, each reference should be linked back to every article that uses it–a kind of reverse citation index for the encyclopedia. Ideally, this would allow not only for a better understanding of what resources we (as a community) write from on the site but it would also provide a place where people could call bullshit on the appropriateness of a resource and that would be linked to all the places it is being cited.

    i have long thought that information sources are suffering as 2nd class citizens on the site. 🙂 is there an on-wiki page for this discussion?

  7. It is good to see that there are a lot of interests for this issue, as well as a significant amount of done job. Tomorrow I’ll make a page on Meta Wikimedia with summarized post and comments content. I’ll add link here and I’ll make a blog and a list announcement.

    (However, if anyone else wants to make a page on Meta, let s/he do it, of course! Also, if there is a similar page(s) on Meta Wikimedia, it would be good to know.)

  8. Since I started working on this in 2005 I have seen a few different ideas tossed around. Most notably, WikiCite (, but it is unclear where that has gone if anywhere. I know there were folks interested in it last year but i stepped away for a few months to work on my dissertation. 🙂 It would be great if we could sustain some momentum on this one.

  9. Wikicite/Wikicat/WikiTextrose was a similar plan, with slightly larger scope. It eventually morphed into WikiData, which morphed into OmegaWiki, I think.

    Looks like something that will take ages, though. Separate refs and notes and recursive references on the other hand could be implemented in no time, and would be useful. A custom format (for example “(John Doe, 1999)” instead of “[1]”) would be nice too, especially if it could take template parameters.

  10. I made a page on Meta: Wikidata. I think that it would be more useful to continue to talk about this issue there.

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