Article tense & BobTheZombie's poll

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FrabbyModerator
07/02/15 11:31 AM
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Very very late, but I reckon I'll have to get this going (thanks for the nudge Bob!).

Regarding the proposed survey at hand, I'm very uncomfortable with the wording of option 2 because the continuous updating of all articles is nigh impossible, yet the survey option is worded as if users can simply elect that the "staff" shall do it.

I also don't like the reasonings given for the options, at least in how they are presented.
As a counter-proposal, I'd simply ask people for their opinion - how they feel the Sarna wiki should formulate its content. Suggestion:

What format do you feel a BattleTech wiki should seek to have?

1) Articles should all be written in past tense.

2) Articles should be written from a hypothetical "current" year that is approximately the current year of the BattleTech in-universe timeline as it develops.

3) Articles should be written with an encyclopedic approach, describing facts of the BattleTech universe in the present tense while covering characters or events that have been concluded from a distant-future viewpoint looking back (i.e. past tense).



I also suggest the discussion pertaining to the poll and the projected policy should be moved away from talk pages and into this forum. That's what we have a forum for after all, with the added bonus of having all relevant input in a single spot.

(In a more general sense, I would like to propose we close down a lot of the unused communication channels on Sarna in favor of this forum. But that's another issue.)


Edited by Frabby (07/02/15 11:33 AM)
BobTheZombieModerator
07/02/15 03:12 PM
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I agree with the rewording and have changed the survey to reflect that. The original wording was a quick rough draft, so this is much better. I was thinking perhaps we could have a pros/cons list so people could easily understand what it's about and make an informed decision.

In the in the meantime, here's a link to the survey.
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FrabbyModerator
07/02/15 03:26 PM
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Actually, I suggest we discuss or at least mention the pros/cons here in this thread. I'd like to formally launch the survey only once we're reasonably sure what options are on the table.

(Using a smartphone right now which is a pain. When I'm back at my desk I can copy the discussion from LittleWolf's user page here, unless somebody else does it first.)
ghostrider
07/02/15 05:35 PM
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One question before getting into this.
Are articles going to be told like a story, or just data on the events going on?
I know that sounds stupid, but it might help decide.

I think the time should be posted at the beginning of the article, and then the time the article is 'written', ie if it is a past subject being told or explained.
With the articles being done in any time frame, there should be some sort of notes for clarifying anything that might cause confusion. Such things might include skill levels at the time a person did such a feat.

Granted making everything seem like it is in the past does help to avoid confusion when new things are added, ie what year something was invented compared to any upgrades, as it may confuse the timeline of the article. Someone saying they put in an erppc in to a ppc carrying mech before they came out would be a good example.
FrabbyModerator
07/03/15 04:53 AM
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Here is what was written on the wiki regarding this discussion (edited, digest-style, for brevity and formatting).
For the full discussion, see http://www.sarna.net/wiki/User_talk:LittleWolf#Present_tense_vs._past_tense_in_articles
Please keep the discussion in this forum.




Frabby I notice you changed the text into past tense. While I admit this wiki doesn't have a proper policy about the issue in place, my understanding is that Sarna doesn't have a timeline viewpoint or "current" timeline. I think we're only writing characters and event articles in past tense because characters die and events pass; by contrast, designs (like 'Mech, vehicle, DropShip, etc.) are covered in the present tense because their stats and descriptions will never become a thing of the past.

LittleWolf While I'll try to keep that in mind in the future, undoubtedly many designs do go through changes, switch "hands" between groups, and otherwise experience history in general. It's hard to describe something in a "timeless" sense when for example it started being built during one period by one manufacturer, then production stopped some years later, only to be restarted in a different time period by a third party. I suppose we could have different tenses for different part of an article.

BobTheZombie I've gone with the standard of keeping everything in the past tense because we're always writing from the point of view of the "current" time, which will be ever evolving as they continue the timeline. It helps keep things simpler when you have all the articles consistent, and I've been told to write everything in the past tense. As I understand it, it's meant to be a "historical" look at things, so it makes sense that everything should be in the past tense. Additionally, everything will be easier if you have it in the past tense because then you don't need to worry about updating the grammar of every page that has new information added to it. That's just my two cents, but from what I remember, I was explicitly told by someone to only use past tense.

Frabby Like I said, we don't have a proper policy on this - probably because there doesn't seem to be user consensus on the issue. Me, I'm a proponent of a timeless OOC wiki (why write "the ''Locust'' was a 20-ton 'Mech when a ''Locust'' will never cease to be a 20-ton 'Mech design?) as opposed to... uh... Revanche I think who was of the opinion that Sarna should be sort of an IC document looking back from whatever is the most advanced point in the BT timeline.
Perhaps we should seek to find a user consensus and draw up a policy or style guide after all. And no, I'm not proposing this now because Revanche isn't active anymore.

BrokenMnemonic I've always worked from the assumption that everything should be written in the past tense - I'd write "the ''Locust'' was a 20-ton 'Mech" because in that instance, it may be that the ''Locust'' went out of production and the design died off as a result. I'm not sure where I picked up the assumption that everything should be in past tense, but most likely from someone here correcting me on the issue, given that this is the first wiki I've worked on.

LittleWolf I know some other wikis also go with a past tense, and a few I believe are present tense, but perhaps then it is time to have an official policy made for Sarna, via user consensus, about which tense to use?

BobTheZombie I agree with BrokenMnemonic on this, but think that we should come to consensus and set it in stone before moving forward. I could make a quick little google survey if you'd like.

BrokenMnemonic One thing to consider: if everything's written in the past tense, then everything is always in the correct tense. If articles start in the present tense but then the information becomes historical, because the design dies out, the time period advances, etc, then the page is effectively in the wrong tense, and would need to be updated. Speaking as someone updating 3,500 planet articles, that kind of update is either not going to get done or is going to be a massive pain for whichever poor sod has to do it.

Wrangler I have to agree, with BrokenMnemonic, the "past tense" makes more sense for in-universe writer's pureview on how Sarna.net is written. The universe is alive and timeline hasn't stopped at one particular time for so long that it never changes. Field Manual: 3145 is written from view of named year 3145, not 3025. As long as there publisher who supports the current universe, everything will eventually become the past.
ghostrider
07/03/15 12:50 PM
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One way to kinda solve this is do the past tense, but no one says it has to be ancient past, ie this happened last month. That would allow you to stay current, without running issues of something getting changed in the canon worlds, or even finding out something won't work well, ie infantry damage.

Since I am not up on how difficult it is to deal with the articles, making, I would figure if you do things such as a news piece, you can always add to the articles by adding an 'update' to the story. That would allow some of the ancient entries the ability to show anything that has been added over time.
This would allow someone to write about the 3025 mechs in the era, then update as it is improved, stopped production, laughed at or whatever.

It might allow for more story telling as well, since a few things like what happened during testing of new weapons package might be interesting for the readers. Why did the panther end up with the ppc and not a large laser, or lrms? Not sure how much leeway you got to do things like that, or if you have the time, but it might be interesting.
Might be interesting to see where some mechs got their names. The light mechs seemed to follow the concept of bugs.
ClanWolverine101
07/06/15 09:28 PM
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I rather like the past tense format, and i've been writing and revising using it for some time, now.

Unless there is a specific need, i'd like to continue doing it that way.
BrokenMnemonic
07/07/15 03:53 AM
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If we always work in the past tense, then every article would, in theory, be consistent with every other article, and never need reworking to correct the tense. That makes it the path of least effort from the outset and the one with the lowest re-editing overhead, so it's the one that would get my vote in any given situation.

Where you have something that happened in BattleTech's ancient history, which then crops up again much later or is referenced much later - planets being abandoned in the 24th century, and then re-explored in the 31st, for example - the easiest way to deal with the situation while still working in the past tense is to continue writing in the past tense, but have the later section prefixed by a time-related reference. I've done that quite a bit in various articles - there are paragraphs/sections that are written in the past tense, but begin along the lines of "This was revisited in the thirty-first century..." or "As of the late thirty-first century, efforts had been made to recolonise planet Worzel, although it was unclear at the time whether those efforts would be successful."
BobTheZombieModerator
07/07/15 02:06 PM
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I strongly agree with many of the above comments that Past tense is the best and most uniform way to go about doing things. When proofreading, it would help a lot beacuse I could just check if it is in a different tense instead of trying to decipher what part of the article it is and what tense it should be. Also, readers may have a hard time following an article that changes tense throughout. That's my 2 cents.

On another note, if you voted in the original survey, please vote again as the old votes didn't stay past the phrase change. Also, if you haven't voted, please do so (link at the top).
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ghostrider
07/07/15 05:45 PM
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I would think both past and encyclopedia versions would work together in some works. A simple passage might need some explanations to what is up.

And as I said, the past might refer to last week, so you can be 'current' with details.
FrabbyModerator
07/09/15 04:52 AM
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"The Locust was a 20-ton BattleMech."
Sounds just wrong. When did it stop to be a 20-ton BattleMech?

Perhaps more to the point:
"The system's third planet was a gas giant."
...and then what happened?

Also, I just realized that we're only talking about articles covering in-universe subjects. (Aren't we?) Because it would be weird to write an article about Jordan Weisman in past tense. He's not dead yet.
ghostrider
07/09/15 12:49 PM
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Didn't they experiment with a heavier version of the locust?

Wording can be the key to making a statement. Maybe stating it like, As of (this) date, the 20 ton Locust battlemech had .....

As for the planet example, it does seem weird, but that is if the one line is the only statement to it. Maybe adding to the line, 'that had not been explored (since/until) x time. It does sound like it would need more anyways. stating 'the system's third planet IS a gas giant'.. and then what happened?
Both statement begs to have something added to it.
I understand and agree they do sound weird if that is the only statement made on both examples. I guess that is why additional context would be the key to making any statement like that work.

And thinking about it, do they still build the locust in the newest time era the game is dealing with? If not, then that would solve the was issue, since it no longer is.
ghostrider
07/09/15 01:08 PM
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Had another thought that could help. This idea is about making the article in the past, but that does not mean everything inside of the article has to be in past tense.

The Locust is a 20 ton mech can still be used in the form it is presented in. But how is the rest of the article written would determine the past tense.
Does it go on to say it was popular around the early 3000's, but fell out of popularity as other more advanced units came to light?
That would keep the locust in the present tense while the rest of the article puts in in the past.

Sadly, it may put a little more pressure on you when writing an article. Finding the correct was to present the article isn't easy at times. The little stories I have written for myself show it can be difficult to tie things together and still have it make sense and flow.
BobTheZombieModerator
07/09/15 06:58 PM
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I understand the thinking here, but I know that it's not reasonable to go through all the ~19,000 pages and check to see what the tense is for every single sentence. We've been doing it as past tense only, for the most part, for years. Asa result, most of the articles already are "past tense only". I don't want to squash the minority here (i.e. Frabby), but I think that having it consistently one tense would make it easier on the editors and on the reader as well. I think that we should focus on adding more content rather than overhauling the whole wiki. That's just my reasoning at the moment...

P.S. Should I put a link to this discussion/the survey on a few of the other forums? Or should we keep it local?
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Edited by BobTheZombie (07/09/15 07:09 PM)
ghostrider
07/09/15 08:36 PM
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I would think keeping it local, as people like me who don't write any articles may not care at all, and if they do, should come to this part of the forums to actually deal with it.

And I didn't realize you would even attempt to go back and change the articles to put them all in line. If so, I would have said leave it as is. I know uniformity is wanted, but as long as the items in the articles have some sort of date in them, I don't see too much of a problem.

Though another thought occurred to me writing things. Maybe having an 'exert from a news flash' to allow current writing in the article and put it in past tense that way. Might allow it to sound correct without Might help avoid having to change writing styles.
FrabbyModerator
07/10/15 03:54 AM
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Maybe we're just facing a semantic problem, i.e. me not clearly communicating what I suggest. Because this
Quote:
ghostrider writes:

Had another thought that could help. This idea is about making the article in the past, but that does not mean everything inside of the article has to be in past tense.

The Locust is a 20 ton mech can still be used in the form it is presented in. But how is the rest of the article written would determine the past tense.
Does it go on to say it was popular around the early 3000's, but fell out of popularity as other more advanced units came to light?
That would keep the locust in the present tense while the rest of the article puts in in the past.


is what I am proposing, and called the "encyclopedic" approach.
It is also the way most articles are currently written, and thus would not require any workover of 19,000 articles which, let's be honest, wouldn't happen anyways regardless of what policy we cook up here.

A few more clarifications:

Whether or not there was ever a 25-ton version of the Locust is irrelevant because the baseline Locust remains a 20-ton 'Mech, in-universe as well as out-of-universe.
By contrast, the Union was actually retconned from originally 3,500 tons up to 3,600 tons at some point in the past. In-universe, it was (retroactively) always 3,600 tons. Similarly, the mass of the Monolith went up from 370,000 tons to 420,000 tons to fit with the new construction rules. In these cases you could actually write their mass "was" 3,500 or 370,000 originally, but "is" now officially 3,600/420,000. But these are about the only cases where such a retcon took place. (Well, spacecraft stats generally changed a lot over time as their construction rules changed.)

The example about the third planet is from the Bethel article, where I recently added it in. It's an off-hand remark from Warrior: Coupé where Redburn suggests a swingby maneuver for chasing the retreating Capellan troops. The only information we get is that the Bethel system has a third planet which is a gas giant, and is apparently not the inhabited world. No more context.

Finally, take a look at the edits to the Excalibur DropShip that started this whole discussion:
http://www.sarna.net/wiki/index.php?title=Excalibur_%28DropShip%29&diff=388098&oldid=388060
Here you can see the changes I made to LittleWolf's text. I changed the everlasting pieces into present tense but left things that had happened/concluded in past tense.
ghostrider
07/10/15 12:28 PM
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The definition of the encyclopedic approach helps.
With the example you shown does help as well. The use of is verses was in the article does show the issues you are having a problem with, but as it was suggested, there is no reason why you can not use the is to describe the unit.
Not being an writing major, I don't see why that can not be used and still not be used in the past. As Frabby has stated it is, and even after 300 years still is.

So maybe it needs to be asked, but what is the difference/problem with using either or both? I do understand uniformity.
I guess I may not understand why this is that important.
Is anyone having that many issues trying to figure out things on the forums? Since most things have some sort of time line in it, I don't see the problem of people confusing the heavy laser with a 3025 unit. Not unless their game master sends out a 3025 unit against the clans in 3100.
BobTheZombieModerator
07/18/15 02:54 AM
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UPDATE: The survey will close at the end of July, so be sure to answer it if you haven't already. The preliminary results look like they should be interesting...
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BobTheZombieModerator
08/01/15 03:05 AM
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Here's a link to the results.

I'll talk about it more in depth tomorrow when I get a chance.
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FrabbyModerator
08/03/15 03:38 AM
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Only 56 responses... seems like this isn't a big issue overall.

As for the result, a two-thirds majority in favor of the encyclopedic approach means we've been doing it right and shouldn't implement any changes - assuming we're all on the same page regarding what "encyclopedic approach" means. I hope my attempts at explaining it in this thread were sufficient.

Should we create a policy based on this, or amend our Policy:Style?
BobTheZombieModerator
08/04/15 01:33 PM
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Sorry for the late reply. I think that we should copy the link over to the old discussion on the wiki and continue it there. The editors are, in the end, going to have to come to agreeance on how we're moving forward.
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FrabbyModerator
08/16/15 04:09 AM
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Can as well discuss this here.
From how I understand it, we're not changing the status quo (or what I perceived to be the status quo) - articles should follow the Excalibur (DropShip) article in their approach to tense, and should not default to past tense.

The only question I have is, should this be put down in a policy somewhere?
BrokenMnemonic
08/16/15 10:52 AM
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I'd recommend recording it as a policy, and generating a few very clear examples of exactly what's meant - I dislike referring to articles as examples, because anyone can update an article and leave it subsequently out of date as a reference.
FrabbyModerator
08/17/15 09:21 AM
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Good points.
I suggest to include it in the Policy:Manual of Style (which in and of itself requires an update/workover). If nobody else does it, I'll do it at some point later this week.
BrokenMnemonic
08/18/15 01:15 PM
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I'm not sure I understand it well enough to write it up, and I'm having to dig a bit harder for enthusiasm than usual because so.many.sodding.planets.
FrabbyModerator
08/18/15 04:39 PM
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It's systems, not planets. But yeah... you deserve a medal or something for the work you're doing on these articles. Don't think I didn't notice.
BrokenMnemonic
08/19/15 03:32 AM
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No, definitely planets. They don't get to be systems until I rewrite the articles, and I'm only 1/4 of the way through.
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