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Administrivia / The Ptitle Replacement System

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On Friday, February 18, 2011, a replacement for the much maligned ptitles system was put into place on This Very Wiki. This article will detail the changes in both layman's terms and in detail, to use as a reference to explain the transition.

The Short, Short Version

  • All articles now store a Custom Title that can be changed with the WikiWord request Form, visible under the topbar's "More" menu.
  • The Custom Title, if one exists, will display in place of the link when you use a Wiki Word or {{ }} markup — but not a Pot Hole.
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  • No new ptitles will be created.
  • All existing ptitled pages and redirects to them automatically received a Custom Title in the transition.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE: No page URLs changed; all articles are still at the same locations they were before. Some people got confused thinking existing ptitles would magically disappear. They did not.

Summary of Changes

Old System
Any page title that could not be created as a Wiki Word or bracketed with {{ }} had to be created using the ptitle markup: [ = ~ ~ = ]. This created an ugly URL looking like "ptitleXXXXX". Referring to these names in Pot Holes required either copying the ptitle or using a Wiki Word redirect.

Example: "Everything's Worse With Snowclones" was stored as "ptitlemvm5d9py". You referred to it with a redirect: EverythingsWorseWithSnowclones, by Pot Holing it to the ptitle: [[{{ptitlemvm5d9py}} Everything's Worse With Snowclones]], or by using the special markup [ = ~ Everything's Worse With Snowclones ~ = ].

New System
All page names (that is, the URL you follow) will be Wiki Words or alphanumerics. Each page will store, as a separate attribute, a Custom Title that is automatically substituted when you see that name in any Wick, other than a Pot Hole. Users may request changes to the custom title with the WikiWord request form but they must be approved by a moderator. The forced ptitle markup [ = ~ will no longer work to create new pages.


Example: "Everything's Worse With Snowclones" is still stored as "ptitlemvm5d9py". It also has a redirect, EverythingsWorseWithSnowclones. Regardless of which name you use, it will display as Everythings Worse With Snowclones. If you want it to display as something else, you can still use a Pot Hole: [[EverythingsWorseWithSnowclones Yep, snowclones are awful]] ==> Yep, snowclones are awful.

NOTE: Please do not use the Custom Title system to perform a rename. The article must still be moved to the new plain text title. Custom Titles are for adding punctuation and special characters only.


Ptitle Replacement System FAQ

Q: So, what exactly happens to existing ptitled pages?
A: The URLs of existing pages are not changing. However, all such pages will be updated to show the proper custom title. Moreover, you can use a redirect to a ptitle page and it will also display the custom title. Example: {{Airplane}} redirects to {{ptitlesuqqsfypos4b}}. Using {{Airplane}} on a page will display Airplane, as will {{ptitlesuqqsfypos4b}} just as if you'd Pot Holed to the ptitle or used the ptitle markup.

Q: What happens to existing wicks?
A: Nothing will happen to existing wicks. They will simply begin displaying the custom title of the linked page.

Q: How do we create new articles with punctuation under this system?
A: Create the article with a plaintext URL. You can then submit a WikiWord request to have its custom title changed to the desired text. The plaintext URL doesn't matter but should be analogous to the real title so it can index properly.

Q: How do we change the custom title?
A: Use the WikiWord request form, which is in the "More" menu of the topbar. Please note that you will be submitting a request which must be approved or denied by a moderator or admin (see Know The Staff). Moderators will be notified automatically when there are pending requests.

Q: How can we avoid flooding the system with frivolous custom title requests?
A: Any title which has already been denied by a moderator will be rejected and a notice will be displayed to that effect. Note that moderators may always override the custom title for any page.

Q: Does this meant that foreign language titles will work?
A: As long as it can be expressed in the character set employed by the wiki (which means no Unicode yet, sorry), it can be used in the custom title. Not only that, but it'll always display that way so you don't have to remember how to type it, except in the case of a Pot Hole.

Q: Does this mean that slashes will work in titles now?
A: Yep. But only for display — the underlying URL can't contain extraneous slashes.

Q: So Pot Holes aren't affected by this?
A: The appearance and underlying links of existing Pot Holes won't change at all.

Q: What happens to the {{ }} markup?
A: You can still use that markup to link to pages that are not Wiki Words. If the page has a custom title, then it will appear in place of the text of your link. For example, to get Spider-Man to display properly in all cases, set its custom title.

Q: Wait, this means no more tricks with using the {{ }} markup to pluralize wicks or hide parts of the name?
A: If the article has a custom title it will override those tricks. To change the displayed name of such an article, you need to use a Pot Hole.

Q: What happens to the [ = ~ markup? Will all those wicks be broken?
A: No. However, the markup will no longer work to create new articles and you should replace the wicks when you come across them (Hint: search for the [ = ~ code in the page source.)

Q: Does the custom title apply to a specific namespace, or all of them?
A: The substitution applies to all namespaces. For this reason, different works with the same name should be given different page titles. Example: Game Theory (Web Show) and Game Theory (Fan Fic).

Q: How do redirects work in the new system?
A: Each redirect is a separate page with a separate custom title. All existing redirects to ptitled pages received the same custom title in the transition, but from this point forward they will also need to have their custom title set via the request form.

Q: How do indexes work with the new system?
A: The index needs the URL of the page, or a redirect to it. You should alphabetize the index according to the URL, not the displayed title.

Q: What happens to Discussion pages for ptitled articles?
A: Nothing. Since the URL won't change, Discussion pages will remain exactly where they are.

Q: How does this work with subpages?
A: The same as always. To be shown in the main article's subpage bar, the subpage must have the same base URL as the main article. Redirects may be used to accomplish this, if needed.

Q: How do we rename articles in the new system?
A: The same as always. Create the new page, copy the markup over, make the old page a redirect, and fix all the wicks. Do not use the Custom Title system to rename an article.

Q: How do we report problems with the feature?
A: Try to repeat the custom title input. If it doesn't work, make a thread in Tech Wishlist & Bug Reports. Please make sure you've read this FAQ before reporting an issue there.

Q: How quickly do custom titles update after being requested?
A: First, the mods have to see the requests and act on them. Once that happens, the main wiki should update almost instantly. The forums and other areas may take a few minutes. Sometimes changing an existing Custom Title to a different one takes longer or may fail — in that case, see the previous question for how to report it.

Q: Is there a problem with CamelCase namespaces? Custom titles for these don't seem to work?
A: This is a known issue. Applying a Custom Title to an article with a CamelCase namespace (example: VideoGame.Assassins Creed Brotherhood) will cause the title to fail to display except on that article. Eddie is aware of it and will hopefully get a fix in place.

Q: What does this do to The Problem with Pen Island?
A: If an article has a custom title, you can no longer play games with CamelCase, so Pen Island will go the way of the dodo. You have our profound condolences. Requiescat in pace. (You can still use a Pot Hole, but that's less fun.)

Brief history of the issue

For most of the history of the wiki, only alphanumeric characters were allowed in Wiki Words. This means no punctuation (except for hyphens), no accented characters, and no customized capitalization unless you use the {{ }} markup to force it. To get around this, a kludge (techspeak for "clumsy workaround") was used to convert punctuated titles (hence "ptitle") into a functional URL, but this left the page title unreadable to people and required either a Pot Hole or special markup to be properly displayed. The confusion caused by this system resulted in a number of issues, including: the requirement for a Wiki Word redirect for all ptitled pages, cluttering the wiki; the inability to perform a Related To search on many ptitles; confusion as to how to insert a ptitled page on an index; and creation of unnecessary ptitles by people unfamiliar with the system.

The problem has been on the wiki To-Do list for some time, but Fast Eddie buckled down and polished it off in February 2011.

Transition notes, copied from the forum thread.

Step 1: In the evening of Thursday 17 Feb (GMT-8), article editing will no longer process the \[\=\~ markup. In other words, no new ptitles will be accepted from then on.

Step 2: A script will be run that replaces 'ptitlexxxxxxx' with the title of its un-punctuated redirect. For example, if ThisLinksOnDrugs redirects to ptitle1234567 which is "This Link's on Drugs", ptitle123456 will be replaced with ThisLinksOnDrugs.

Step 3: The new page-viewing code will be installed.

Step 4: There will be joy across all lands.

Additional notes:

Ptitles that don't have a redirect will still be serviced. The new system doesn't really care about the replaced item. It's arbitrary. If we tell it to say 'Morton's Left Foot' when it sees 'ptitle098765', that's what it does. Same deal if we tell it to say 'Morton's Left Foot' when it sees 'MortonsLeftFoot.'

Starting a new page: New pages will need an un-punctuated title to translate into a punctuated form. What the un-punctuated title is makes no difference to the system at all, as long as all the letters in it can be used in a URL.

Making a link to a "punctuated" page: Yes, the "link name" (the name used in the URL) can be different from the displayed title of the page. The link name has to be used, when you want to link the page from another page. To make it easy, it makes sense to make the link name the un-punctuated version.

However, if you type {{ptitle1234567}} for those existent pages with a ptitle, the substitution will work.

Slashes in custom titles? Yup. F/X and //sign at will.

Search-n-destroy questions: When we decide to change the name of a page, we just change the title that displays. The URL will stay the same. A new redirect will be useful for those people who want to use the new name as the "link name", but existent links using the old name will display the new one automagically. No text moving or cutting required.

The substitution is per namespace. So, yes is your answer. A custom request will have to be made for pages that have the same title in multiple namespaces.

Yeah, I'm going to make it so that saving a page containing links with [ = ~ markup will swap in the redirect title, if it has one, or the ptitle if it doesn't. That's what the extra day is about.

Page URL's are not changing in any way. There are no 'URL swaps'.

All URLs that work today will work on Saturday. Bookmarks will not be impacted.

Associations with sub-pages are discovered by using the URL name, just like with ptitles today, where the same ptitle has to be used in each namespace in order to get the namespace 'tabs' to show up.

Character limits: The link title limit is 64 characters, as it always has been. We're picking up a new capability in that the custom title can be up to 255 characters.

NOTE: As of June 2012, the vast majority of ptitle markups have been removed from the wiki; only 24 pages still contain the markup per Fast Eddie. If you happen to come across one of these pages, please remove the markup.

Alternative Title(s): The Custom Title System, How To Use Custom Titles