Forums: Index > Watercooler > Questions about forms

Questions, observations and suggestions about the alpha release of the Showfacts person suite of templates. All references to {{showfacts person-ex}} now apply to {{showfacts person}}, since they are now identical. If your question is of general interest, please post it here rather than my talk page. -Phlox


Q: Should I use {{Showfacts person}} and Form:Person?
A: Yes. The templates have been updated to the new format. (updated 2009-10-2)
Q: Preview is broken. (manual editing)
A: At the time of this writing, the default (WYSIWYG) editor works very slowly with templates that are complicated. Preview mode intentionally produces a schematized view of infoboxes in a showfacts article. Until this shortcoming of the default editor is addressed, preview will produce this schematized view. I could put in a switch for manual users to override this behavior but I can imagine many folks forgetting and leaving it on, which would mean that newcomers would be penalized when they went to edit articles with the default editor. So unless folks really can't get along with doing a save to preview, I'd rather not. As soon as the editor gets better with complicated templates, I will remove this behavior.
Q: I'd like to help polish this- how can I help?
A: There are many help pages that discuss page creation. These need to be updated to re-orient guidance towards article creation using the showfacts templates.
Q: I like my style of articles. Do I have to switch?
A: No. While you may miss out on new features, it is true that some of Familypedia's best articles do not use any of the infobox or showfacts templates. Dormant articles may in time be upgraded but if you are uncomfortable with the new templates, feel free to use whatever style suits you best. ("Info page" articles: Note that these will have their current makeshift SMW capability turned off after the transition is complete. They have severe incompatibilities with the showfacts scheme.) Whatever alternative style you choose, please take a second look after the showfacts templates mature so that you might see whether the shortcomings that concern you have been addressed.

Thanks for your insights, suggestions, questions and patience with the flaws of this early release. -~ Phlox 17:01, September 27, 2009 (UTC)

Bruce Kendall[]

I've created a couple of articles using the new forms (Stephen Jennings Kendall (1797-1832) and Selium McGary (1831-1910)). I have a few questions about usage:

  1. In the infobox-style table with the person's facts, the parents don't have links. However the parents do have links in the detailed "facts about" table at the bottom of the page. Is this intentional?
    No. That was inadvertent. Will be fixed shortly.
    Green check.svg Fixed. the same was true of siblings list.
  2. A perhaps related observation is that, whereas autocomplete suggestions appear when I start typing a name in the "Joined with" field, there is no autocompletion associated with the Father and Mother fields
    Thanks. Besides these omissions, Autocompletion will continue to evolve. You may notice that the suggestions are also populated with articles that are not persons. In time, the localities field will only suggest localities and so on. This is currently demoed with county boxes.
    Green check.svg Fixed.
  3. When I was filling in the surname field for Stephen Kendall, autocomplete suggested "Kendall (surname)". Is this the recommended format for this field?
    No. Please delete the (surname) portion of the string. Folks will have to tolerate it for a week or so- I have to generate a separate list for the autocompletion.
  4. In Selium McGary's page, I had manually added some content (a "tabs" macro) to the top of the page, and it worked fine. However, I subsequently went back into the forms to add some new information, and the "Showfacts person-ex" block was moved to the top of the page, ruining the formatting. Can this be prevented?
    I'll take a look at it. I have learned some things since I ran into some of the limitations of forms regarding placement. I used to believe that there was no way to avoid it. However it may be possible to allow this sort of thing. I had a conversation with the author about the problem but recall there was a fly in the ointment about general usage of the trick I have in mind. Don't recall what it was as I jot out this note, but if I can manage it, I will make it so you can do what you were doing. It may be that the particular tabs you have in mind might be autoincluded with the showfacts person-ex (now showfacts person). Nonetheless, people may want to insert other elements prior to the person template. ~ Phlox 17:01, September 27, 2009 (UTC)

Bruce Kendall 12:08, September 27, 2009 (UTC)


Did my first page with a form: Ekbert Billung (935-994). Works fine.

It would help if the form places {{SMW templates}} at the bottom of the page.

Green check.svg Done. ok. That will happen at article creation. Regarding insertion after the person has created an article: Do you envisage any options/ parameters on your suite of templates? If so, a subform like the children one can create it. If you display an infobox, it is tough to automagically place it in the article after creation. If you are a "Set" type template and don't directly display anything at the template's location, then of course it doesn't matter.
{{SMW templates}} does not take any parameters. It does not display anything, so it just needs to be on the page. rtol 18:15, September 27, 2009 (UTC)

It would be good, on the children form, to say something like "Name of Child1 (DoB-DoD); Name of Child2 (Dob-DoD); etc" Or just "List of children, separated by semicolons (;)" rtol 12:34, September 27, 2009 (UTC)

Yes. All name fields requires some guidance on naming convention. I will place a "by example" message there.

I couldn't find where to put the Wikipedia pages: [1] rtol 12:38, September 27, 2009 (UTC)

I forgot about them but they are extremely simple. Do we want a separate infobox just like before? ~ Phlox 16:16, September 27, 2009 (UTC)
I like the current info box. Should be separate, or together with the other sources. rtol 18:15, September 27, 2009 (UTC)
okeydokey. So folks who want to include wp links in the notes section can do so like links to any other source offsite. For those who want the interwiki sidebar thing I did for info pages, it will behave just like the old one. ~ Phlox 00:53, September 28, 2009 (UTC)


  • 1) It looks like the biographical section has been deleted from the template, unless I am doing something wrong : Wynant Pietersen Van Eck (c1632-1691) & Annetie Aukes Van Nuyse (c1643-?). The only thing I changed was move the children section to the bottom and do an old fashioned contributor section. This reminds me of a question, will the new forms have an easy box for wikipedia biographies as the old Info pages had a space? Thanks - William Allen Shade 02:52, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
Each template does a different thing. I added showfacts biography and showfacts notes. It is one of the things from footer that I think you want. There might be some other stuff in {{footer}}, but I think that's the main one.
  • 2) Not sure if this was addressed before, but the forms require a surname. What do we do for people that really didn't have one, such as the patronymic system in many places? Thanks - William Allen Shade 02:54, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
Full details are discussed here. The skinny is: the names surname, given and middle names are all a mirage for ease of use. The surname field is really a mask over it's real identity. It's real name would have been "person_primary_taxonomic_key", but I am sure this would have seemed overly pedantic for most users. So it is completely proper to put a patronym in there, because it would be the primary key for the person in a government administrative database. Anyway, familypedia supports a 3 part taxonomic key for person names, and that key affects sort and lookup classification. For most of our users and most of europe, this corresponds to the familiar surname (primary key), given name (secondary key), middle name (tertiary key) pattern. For ease of understanding, this is how they are named. Technically, a patronym of an individual from Iceland is not a surname, but it is still the primary taxonomic key. In Russia, the Patronym is least significant, so it would be assigned to the third taxonomic key- "middle name" field. Let's take another example with a mismatch.
Chinese names have surnames, but they are insignificant for identification since over half the population in china uses the same 20 surnames. For this reason, there is heavy pressure on the secondary and and tertiary keys. We have no direct support for generational indicators, nor western names, but just as with patronyms, we don't have to. We use the secondary and tertiary keys as government administrators would use them to keep individuals sorted. Typically, a given name is treated as a compound composed of a generation indicator and a first name. Example: wikipedia:Tony Tan Keng Yam Tan is the surname. Keng Yam is the generation- first name compound and goes into given name. Tony is the least significant key so goes into the middle name field.
It's less complicated if you ask yourself how a government administrator in a country would use three fields for names to sort the population. We could go abstract in the Tables and call it Name1 instead of surname, Name2 instead of given name, and name3 instead of middle names, but I think that while the affectionados would not be making condescending comments about patronyms, most people would be confused. ~ Phlox 07:16, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
That makes sense. Thanks - William Allen Shade 01:48, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
  • 3) None of the dates appear to be clickable as they would be with info pages. - William Allen Shade 03:13, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
Right. Also regarding dates, note that if you are logged in with preferred language en-gb or any other non en language that the order is Day first rather than month first.
Now to the linking. It's easy to link to lots of stuff, but because I have lots of choices now, I have no idea what people prefer. What's hard is determining where the user most often would like most to go. For example, click on birth year, go to the article for the article on that year as was the case before, or the category of births in that year? Click on month, go to the year-month in history article? Click on day, go to the "this day in history": month-day? Say what you like, we can try it one way for a few weeks then refine to something else if we don't like it. I don't have any opinion on what is best. ~ Phlox 07:16, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
What if it was similar to the county pages with the separate links for the different year information as the county pages have for marriages, deaths, births, etc. Just an idea. - William Allen Shade 01:48, September 29, 2009 (UTC)

We can try it several ways before settling on one. No big deal to change it around. I am guessing that what you just said was adding the place into the link. Yeah we can do stuff like linking to similar dates for a geographic area. Let's get concrete. Say the person has an infobox with:

Born: January 7, 1945 in Seattle, King County, Washington

Where do you go if you click

  • January
  • 7
  • 1945

I believe what I did with the county boxes that you are referring to is something like a decade search for births/ deaths etc for that county. But what if we are talking a birth in 1242 Kronoberg County Sweden? Not a lot of hits for even the century for that county, so the link might not be that useful....

The obvious thing is to have 1945 go to the article on 1945 just like Wikipedia. Similarly, either January or 7 goes to the article on all famous things that happened in history on January 7. Maybe users want that. Fine with me- simple is oftentimes best, and no skin off my nose- that takes about 30 seconds to code that way. Maybe we do that behavior in biographical narratives, but do something more fancy in the infobox. You decide. Personally, if I was searching I'd use the search interface like what is being prototyped. Example at Thurstan's page User:Thurstan/query. Basically I will add date ranges to this and clean up the UI, but you get the idea. We don't need to torque the UI on date display into a time and space search because we have a real way of doing that. ~ Phlox 03:35, September 29, 2009 (UTC)

A link to the year would be cool. Note that the year-pages still need a lot of brushing up, some of which is being done by {{info year}}. rtol 04:40, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
No other responses to the question besides Rtol, so I went with his. This can be revisited if anyone cares about it.
  1. Green check.svg Fixed. Month-day links to Month-day article. Month-year has link to Year only. (I could make month link to Month-year in this case. Desirable?) Year always links to year. Hours minutes don't do anything. ~ Phlox 07:10, October 5, 2009 (UTC)


Property "children-g1" doesn't seem to be set by {{showfacts children}}, so the "descendants" template doesn't work. What is happening? Thurstan 02:57, September 28, 2009 (UTC)

Green check.svg Fixed. you can stop using set children now. ~ Phlox 08:07, September 28, 2009 (UTC)
Thanks Thurstan 23:20, September 28, 2009 (UTC)


Looks really good. I have added several including: Clyde Andrew Stauffer (1895-1959) and Mabel Elizabeth Bennett (1900-1979).

Since we have a Showfacts biography Template that shows cause of death can we have a place to enter it in the form? Bill Hunsicker 16:30, October 15, 2009 (UTC)

I have no objection to having all of the info page based Person Pages I have created converted. Bill Hunsicker 16:42, October 15, 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Bill. I am hoping once the wrinkles get ironed out that this will be a lot less difficult to use than the info pages system. ~ Phlox 01:57, October 16, 2009 (UTC)

A little faster today[]

After doing some obvious optimizations to showfacts person-ex, short articles now display about 30% faster than yesterday. Form speed was unaffected. Besides also being due for some performance tweaking, the default form will be a much more streamlined simple version that is less intimidating. The advanced form will still be available via click from the simple form for folks that want to record minutiae about their ancestors. ~ Phlox 09:50, September 29, 2009 (UTC)

Forms a lot faster today[]

The simple form loads in 3 seconds compared to 30 seconds for the kitchen sink "advanced form". I made it ultra thin.

Should the basic form have remains, baptism, or wedding1?

Children can only be added at the cost of making the children template immediately follow the showfacts person template. Not pretty, so I didn't do it. Maybe I can come up with some hack to deal with it, but it would probably involve something requiring a double flush. Pick your poison. Keep it the way it is, or do children entry on the simple form, and accept that the contributor must double flush? Opinions? ~ Phlox 08:58, October 2, 2009 (UTC)

  1. Green check.svg Fixed. On new article, the children form is presented. Later, you have to use the child form separately- otherwise the child table would be relocated to follow biography every time someone used the form to edit it. ~ Phlox 07:10, October 5, 2009 (UTC)

Other bugs[]

New contributors were using new lines rather than + to separate children. This did very nasty things to the query engine. These are trapped now with a red letter error message. Theoretically I could have allowed them by converting them on page save to pluses. I decided not to because it makes things more complicated for template writers following me to deal with. It's natural for novices to assume that new lines is the correct way to enter names of people, never mind that the banner text says in bold text not to do that. I'd like to accomodate, but newlines are very weird things to find in the middle of a parameter. The trick is that you do a replace after #urlencode: ing the parameter. Then you can find the %0A in the string. Otherwise, heaven help you. ~ Phlox 07:10, October 5, 2009 (UTC)

Instructions in Feb 2010 still need improvement[]

use the "edit this page" menu item to enter into the word processor[]

After saving the form, please use the "edit this page" menu item to enter into the word processor so that you may add pictures, headings and format the text as you wish.

I've just created a page (John Christian Veith) using the verbose option. After saving the page (which I presume is what is meant by "saving the form", but maybe it isn't), I clicked "Edit this page" and got a standard-looking page of code with parameters and equals signs. No hint of being in a wordprocessor so as to add headings etc as promised. What have I missed? — Robin Patterson (Talk) 02:32, February 4, 2010 (UTC)

Multiple family groups[]

The new forms do not yet have a way of entering multiple family groups. That is, there is no form for entering children-g2, children-g3, etc. and wedding2_year, wedding2_month, wedding2_day, wedding2_locality, etc. DennisDoty 15:31, February 7, 2010 (UTC)

Maybe you haven't found the Advanced form? (It's called "verbose" when you start a page.) — Robin Patterson (Talk) 01:15, February 10, 2010 (UTC)
Thank you Robin, that's exactly what I was looking for. DennisDoty 01:52, February 10, 2010 (UTC)

Problem with showfacts person and showfacts children[]

Birth_date-approx is not displayed by showfacts person and showfacts children. See for example Edward Doty (bef1600-1655). DennisDoty 16:20, February 7, 2010 (UTC)