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Removal of ref reordering in AWB
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Description

AWB has been changing the position of references on enwiki since 2009, a feature that many editors have complained about. I asked an AWB developer, Rjwilmsi, how to remove this. He said I should demonstrate consensus, then a request should be opened here.

An RfC to that end has just been closed. The closer wrote: "It would be an understatement to say these sorts of edits are controversial and that they fall far short of consensus. This constitutes a clear consensus to halt these edits." https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Village_pump_(proposals)&oldid=756499540#RfC:_AWB_bot_ref_reordering

I'm therefore opening this to ask that the feature be removed from AWB.

Event Timeline

Restricted Application added a subscriber: Aklapper. · View Herald TranscriptDec 24 2016, 6:51 PM

This should be made optional to facilitate maintenance of articles which should have ref-ordering, not removed.

The consensus of the RfC was clear that it should be removed, not made optional.

It shouldn't have been added to AWB without community consensus, not least because it violates the bot policy, specifically CONTEXTBOT: "Unsupervised bot processes should not make context-sensitive changes that would normally require human attention". But that is to re-argue the case. I hope the outcome of the RfC is respected.

There's every consensus to make anything you can do manually optional. I can reorder refs manually if I want, there's no rhyme or reason to make me jump through hoops to do this. Bots shouldn't do this, fine, but you have zero consensus to remove my ability to make editorial decisions.

Headbomb, the argument against making automated or semi-automated edits like this is that they can be done at speed and are therefore hard to undo.

The closer wrote: "Automated or semi-automated edits are subject to more strict scrutiny, they need to be either uncontroversial or have consensus. There is roughly a two-to-one opposition to AWB ref reordering."

Whether a bot or non-bot account is involved, the point is that ref reordering shouldn't be automated or semi-automated because it's controversial.

The RFC was about bots reordering refs, not humans. WP:CONTEXBOT applies to bots, not humans. If you want to remove this for humans, get an RFC for that.

Moreover, AWB is used by other Wikipedias too. The RFC is only about en.wp.

rev 12137 : T154089 Don't apply ReorderReferences within genfixes for en-wp

The RFC outcome has been honoured by making the code change to disable this function for genfixes on en-wp.

There will need to be a new AWB release for AWB users to pick up a new AWB version with this change included. @Magioladitis normally does the releases as it requires some admin tasks; as we're in holiday season and all volunteers it make take a bit of time to get a new AWB release done.

With the new AWB release users who want to make use of the ReorderReferences functionality on en-wp can still do so, using a custom module. Separate ticket(s) could be raised if user(s) want to have this function available from a context menu etc. to invoke manually (to apply on articles where there is consensus etc., I'll not go further into that).

Rjwilmsi, thank you for removing it from genfixes, but if I've understood you correctly you're not removing it from AWB entirely.

It's clear from the RfC and the complaints over the years that ref reordering is contentious, because it's context-sensitive and therefore not suited to automated or semi-automated editing.

The AWB rules say: "Do not make controversial edits with it." What process do you envisage AWB editors following to gain consensus before they apply ref reordering to particular articles?

Recall that awb is not used only in en.wp

Στις 26 Δεκ 2016 21:21, ο χρήστης "SlimVirgin" <
no-reply@phabricator.wikimedia.org> έγραψε:

SlimVirgin added a comment.

Rjwilmsi, thank you for removing it from genfixes, but if I've understood
you correctly you're not removing it from AWB entirely.

It's clear from the RfC and the complaints over the years that ref
reordering is contentious, because it's context-sensitive and therefore not
suited to automated or semi-automated editing.

The AWB rules say: "Do not make controversial edits with it." What process
do you envisage AWB editors following to gain consensus before they apply
ref reordering to particular articles?

*TASK DETAIL*
https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T154089

*EMAIL PREFERENCES*
https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/settings/panel/emailpreferences/

*To: *SlimVirgin

*Cc: *Rjwilmsi, Magioladitis, Headbomb, Aklapper, SlimVirgin, JJMC89,
Grind24, Reguyla, Dinoguy1000

The feature was added in 2009 because two editors on enwiki requested it. It triggered lots of complaints, all of which were ignored. In May 2015, Rjwilmsi wrote:

"AWB feature requests do not necessarily get widely announced, so maybe a feature was added that goes against some established practice in certain cases. So the simplest thing here would seem to me to have a wide discussion about the encouraged/approved/discouraged options for reference ordering on the MOS/WP:CITE pages, ensure that the MOS/WP:CITE etc. guidelines are updated if a consensus is reached. Then I will ensure AWB is updated if required to support the consensus reached."
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Village_pump_(miscellaneous)&diff=prev&oldid=662115516

The RfC was held to find out whether there was consensus, and the outcome was that two-thirds are opposed to using AWB to make these edits. I hope that will be respected.

For those of you not happy about this, the best thing would be to change ref name, because that's the source of the problem. Short term, stop AWB from adding ref name when editors omit it. Longer-term, can a feature be added that changes the number of footnotes as they are used elsewhere in the article (where ref name is in use) without moving the notes themselves? That is, where footnote 2 would become footnote 1, etc.

Rjwilmsi, thank you for removing it from genfixes, but if I've understood you correctly you're not removing it from AWB entirely.
It's clear from the RfC and the complaints over the years that ref reordering is contentious, because it's context-sensitive and therefore not suited to automated or semi-automated editing.

Correct, not removed entirely. Disabling it in genfixes for en-wp has satisfied the RFC outcome. AWB runs on other wikis that the RFC did not cover, so it remains enabled for other wikis.

Other en-wp editors have asked to have the function accessible for manually-configured use, which seems reasonable to me.

The AWB rules say: "Do not make controversial edits with it." What process do you envisage AWB editors following to gain consensus before they apply ref reordering to particular articles?

I don't know why you are specifically asking me, though I'd say follow whatever processes are used to decide on other editorial choices like what date format to use.

Rjwilmsi, you wrote: "Other en-wp editors have asked to have the function accessible for manually-configured use, which seems reasonable to me."

But that wasn't the outcome of the RfC. You're ignoring that there is strong consensus against doing this with automated or semi-automated tools because it can break text-source integrity.

I'm asking you because you added it to AWB in 2009; said in 2015 that you would remove it if there was consensus to do so; and now that consensus has been established won't remove it. It's disappointing.

Again, the RFC was about bots reordering refs. This has been shown to not have consensus, will be taken out of genfixes, and bots will not longer reorder refs.

The RFC did absolutely *nothing* to establish that editors cannot reorder refs themselves if they so wish. If you want to prevent this, then do an RFC saying that ordered refs are not a valid style. This will of course never gain consensus, since it is a valid style, and thus there is ZERO reason to prevent editors who wish to have ordered refs from being able to have them, with the usual caveats of [[WP:CITEVAR]].

So basically, drop the stick.

Please read the close (note: automated or semi-automated):

"Automated or semi-automated edits are subject to more strict scrutiny, they need to be either uncontroversial or have consensus. There is roughly a two-to-one opposition to AWB ref reordering. It would be an understatement to say these sorts of edits are controversial and that they fall far short of consensus."

The close reflects the comments. If this feature is retained, you know that it will be misused. The complaints over the years and the RfC have established ref reordering as a contentious practice, and the AWB rules say it's not to be used for anything contentious.

I think in the New Year a discussion needs to be had about AWB in general. Features are added without consensus, yet look how hard it is to have something removed. AWB users and developers routinely violate AWB rules. No one seems to be enforcing them, so really there are no rules.

The feature isn't being retained as such, though. It's being highly restricted. One has to jump through technical hoops to use it, and therefore, it's totally the decision of the AWB user when they use it. This really isn't different from deciding to do the same thing manually. And as always, the specific editor is responsible for their edits.

The change made to the software will effectively stop the vast majority of these edits on enwiki. Pushing for an absolute stop no matter what takes away something that some subject areas or specific sets of articles may not find objection to.

Magioladitis closed this task as Resolved.Jan 3 2017, 11:46 AM
Magioladitis claimed this task.

AWB 5.9.0.0 released. Ref ordering was removed from en.wp genfixes.

@SlimVirgin An RfC can ONLY dictate what is allowed to be edited and can not be edited on en.wp. AN RfC can NOT dictate what an external program has in it's setting or not. It should be made clear to editors using external tools that they have to abide by local consenus, policies and rules. However, it can not force developers to remove features from tools which are not "native" on the wiki. This ticket has gone above and beyond to remove it from the genfies, but just having it as a "tick box" and be deactivated by default should have been (more than) sufficent (since the devs are not forced to comply with an RfC in regards to programming their tools; it is up to editors and users of the tool to abide by the RfC.)

But I'd like to show gratitude for the devs. for removing this from en.wp's genfixes.