--- Comment #116 from Ted Kandell <> 2010-11-21 02:18:18 
UTC ---
I would like to add a concrete example to this debate, an actual use case.

Many entries in Wikipedia describe some sort of phylogenetic data, from
genealogies, to the phylogenies of language families, to Y and mitochondrial
DNA haplogroups.

A standard way of representing such trees is through the Newick format:

There are all sorts of template hacks in Wikipeida to represent family trees,
genetic trees, language families, and all sorts of other related information.

Wouldn't it be better to just add the standard Newick format tree
representation to articles, and then use templates to display the data in
various sorts of ways? The fundamental information would then be preserved in a
standardized display-independent format. Also there are a large number of tools
out there that can generate graphic images based on the Newick format. 

It isn't very difficult to parse a Newick format string and create a basic tree
display template from it. However, all this really would need is a full set of
string functions. It's true that PHP and MediaWiki wasn't designed to be a kind
of parser or compiler, but what sort of alternative can anyone think of?
Should we put in a request for MediaWiki developers to support the Newick
format, and any number of other important display-independent representations
of data widely used in Wikipedia? Who decides, and who does the work?

There is a good argument to "doing it right" and implementing a full scripting
language (aside from Javascript?) but in the meantime, all sorts of important
data that can't quite be represented as text is being added to Wikipedia in the
form of templates. How can all the various sorts of tree data now in Wikipedia
be extracted - or just redisplayed using whatever new and better display
template comes along?

I don't know if this can be added as a "bug" in and of itself, but it it does
point out the fundamental problem. MediaWiki has text, graphic, audio, and
video formats, but is missing the ability to parse certain other critical basic
information storage formats that the developers never considered.

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