Submissions:2018/Timelines In Wikipedia

From WikiConference North America
Jump to: navigation, search

Due to limited space, WikiConference North America 2018 unfortunately could not accommodate this submission in its program this year.
Please check out our Unconference for opportunities to present and share there.


Timelines In Wikipedia

Theme (optional)

Tech & Tools

Academic Peer Review option


Type of submission



Jeffrey Roehl

E-mail address

Wikimedia username


Affiliation(s) (optional)



This is a proposal for placing timelines into Wikipedia to allow users the ability to better understand history over time.

CONSERNING: (we will turn the website on upon request, the website is due to open permanently September 1, 2018)


This is a website that allows any user to place any number of Wikipedia articles on an attractive timeline for contemporaneous analysis.


By our last count as of February 2018, there are somewhere in the range of 38 million dates in the English Wikipedia. What makes a task like this even possible is that our friends at Wikipedia enforce (to a great extent) standard date nomenclature as laid out in:,_months_and_years

There are actually 9304 different ways to write a standard date or date range in Wikipedia, conforming to the manual of style. There are also hundreds of non-standard dates. An example of this would be when a persons birth year is speculated but his date of passing is known. That might look like this:

“c. 1567 - December 3, 1615” Regardless of the complexity of this task, we believe we have gotten a +95% success rate on finding dates in the text of Wikipedia articles. This excludes lists and info boxes because we want the dates that are put on timelines to tell a story and the dates in the paragraphs in Wikipedia afford us just this.

Here is a discussion of our findings:

We believe there are nearly 10,000 different ways of writing a date or a date range in Wikipedia. Our table used to disambiguate standard dates and date range formats can be found here:

Although we are happy with the results of our extraction algorithms, we continue to improve our methods.


If we don’t run into any cross domain or other security issues, we could see presenting a test timeline, in a Wikipedia article, created directly from any article, in a couple of hours. We obviously understand Wikipedia from a technical standpoint.

In order to implement a timeline on a Wikipedia article, one would have to include a
tag, as in:

Presumably this would be in a collapsible toggle widget area in the article.

Upon the expansion of the collapsible widget the following call to a server would look something like this:


And of course it wont be this simple, but, quite frankly, it should not be that much more complicated.


On our website any user can, with just a mouse (little or no typing necessary):

1) Create/delete a timeline

2) Add/delete any article on any timeline

3) Add/delete any date from any article on any timeline

A short video showing an example of this simple procedure can be seen here:


The current website does not include all the features we have developed for it. We are introducing many new ideas, concepts and nomenclature. We don’t want to negatively confuse initial users with too much “feature bloat”. As we get eventual feedback we will introduce timeline and annotated article sharing and many other “bells and whistles”. We are just currently interested in getting reactions to this potential new feature, from Wikipedians, like you.

Of course this is a very complex topic and we could probably produce a 100 page proposal. Hopefully 3 pages will need to suffice on this forum, at this time.

Therefore we are available to answer any questions, here or via email, at any time.


Jeff Roehl

Lead developer

Length of presentation

15-30 min

Special requests


Preferred room size


Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?


If you will be incorporating a slidedeck during your presentation, do you agree to upload it to Commons before your session, with a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license, including suitable attribution in the slidedeck for any images used?


Will you attend WikiConference North America if your submission is not accepted?


Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with four tildes. (~~~~).

  1. Erachlin (talk) 17:48, 22 August 2018 (UTC)
  2. Jroehl (talk) 18:10, 22 August 2018 (UTC)