Grab bag: A new canvas

Web-wide citations?

I recently started a new wiki project, which I’ll discuss in more detail later. Like the Brackbill Wiki, this one is based on the same software that powers Wikipedia, MediaWiki. It’s a powerful site building tool if you want something that’s collaboratively edited.

However, don’t assume that all the power of Wikipedia is in any other MediaWiki site. Case in point: citations. I love the citation templates on Wikipedia, together with the reference templates, because they make it drop dead simple to do professional citations, which if you’re trying to construct a reference work are kind of important.

But the citation templates that power Wikipedia aren’t in the default MediaWiki package; they’re templates that live specifically in Wikipedia’s content. And while Wikipedia’s liberal license policies allows reuse-by-copying, that means you have to keep up with bugfixes yourself. It would be one thing if it were just one template, but by my count I had to copy no fewer than 66 templates to get web and book citations, and their associated documentation pages, working. That’s nuts.

What would be nice, of course, would be to have a nice, robust markup strategy that would do proper footnote citations on any site, not just a wiki. The anchor tag is kind of the degenerate version of it–very powerful but also lacking in some of the stuff you want for a formal citation, such as the date the item was last accessed.