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  • The {{apn}} template is responsible for the small arrows that you see to the sides of the characters' names in many comics, most prominently in those Golden, Silver and Bronze Age comics. There are also some Modern Age comics with these arrows, but most recently, we have stopped using them. And to say that there is a reason for that, would be an understatement.

    These arrows would point you to the "Next" or "Previous" appearance of the characters and they started working in the DC Database back in 2011. In those days, things were simpler and users were a bit... driven. Case in point: there are over 10.000 + apn links and 90% of those were included by one user. Nowadays, this person is long gone and there is no way to be certain where all this information came from. And this is where the problem starts.

    Recently, there have been several discussion over the actual usefulness of the template among admins and users alike. A few months back, the suggestion to eliminate the template came up during an off-topic discussion (see here) and it was later expanded here.

    The common ground is that the template needs to go. And now, here are some of the reasons why:

    Subjectivity
    The template doesn't make any distinction between chronological appearances and canon appearances. There are hundreds of examples across the site, where characters start appearing in multiple comics at the same time and the apn links start jumping between "in-universe" appearances and then return to list the chronological appearances according publication.

    As someone else put it: "It opens the door to guessing a story order when none is explicit." - Byfield

    Conflicting Information
    Similar to the user who included all the apn links, there was another user who included the appearances of the characters in the "Notes" section of the comics, although to a lesser extent. There are many cases in which the information contradicts each other and there is no way to tell for sure which one is right. Take a look at Justice League of America #2 and notice how some of the notes contradict the apn links and viceversa. That is just one example among many and it all goes back to the subjectivity issue.

    Inconsistency
    There are occasions when a "Next" link will take you to one comic, but when you want to return to the "Previous" appearance, the link will not take you back to the first comic, but other completely different. I explained it with an example in the aforementioned discussion link.

    Zero Distinction
    The apn links will take you to the previous and/or next appearance of the characters, even if the characters appeared only in one panel cameo or in a flashback! How is that useful for someone who wants to read relevant appearances of a certain character? A: it is not.

    These and many other reasons have been discussed over the years about apn, and frankly we've had enough. If you're interested, here's a list of previous discussions on the subject:
    Discussion #1 (How to use apn)
    Dicsussion #2 (Apn is confusing)
    And all other discussion where we just couldn't keep working with apn:
    Discussion #3, Discussion #4, Discussion #5, Discussion #6 and Discussion #7


    Wait, why not fix it?

    As you already know, there are 10.000+ apn links and tyring to go over them is not practical and not rational. There is no definitive list of when and where characters appeared and the whole thing becomes a fool's errand. Besides, most of the admins suspect that all the appearances were taken from the somewhat flawed DCU Guide Chronologies. Which just adds one more reason to remove this tool. If there is an online resource with that information, why should he have that as well?

    The Solution

    In the upcoming weeks, we will redirect all apn links to the standard {{A}} template, which is used to categorize appearances without further information, similar to what we've been doing with all the New 52 and Rebirth comics. All comics will look like Justice League (Volume 3) #1, where the link to the character is more than enough.

    Last Words

    This is just a way of informing the community about a decision that has been largely discussed and a consensus has been reached. With the disappearance of apn, we won't rely on subjective and arbitrary lists about the appearances of characters. Such lists should not be included anywhere in the comic page, not in the synopsis, nor in the notes section. The list of appearances written in the notes that already exist will remain there until further notice.

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    • It's about time. I suspect much of the apn data and definitely know that many synopses for older stories were taken from DarkMark's Comics Indexing Domain.

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    • ata

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    • To do this would be to ruin all the work of the original user that started this, and there are still people who WILL do apn's correctly so I think all this work to remove apn's is not necessary and it would take less effort to finish all the apn's, also, how do you know that the original user was wrong? i mean he knew more than any of the users now (no offense) and he (or she) did a lot of work that no one else would have done so i think we (all the wiki contributors) should not remove apn's and just finish them.

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    • Monkeyjack wrote: To do this would be to ruin all the work of the original user that started this, and there are still people who WILL do apn's correctly so I think all this work to remove apn's is not necessary and it would take less effort to finish all the apn's, also, how do you know that the original user was wrong? i mean he knew more than any of the users now (no offense) and he (or she) did a lot of work that no one else would have done so i think we (all the wiki contributors) should not remove apn's and just finish them.

      You sorta missed the point there.

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    • Well, I can see what you are saying but to remove all the apn's would take a LONG time because there are over (like sforhope said) 10,000 pages that have apn's on them but if you just make sure they are right, then you would not have to edit every page, you would only have to check them, saving hours of repeating the same process over and over again, plus people have already done most of the apn's so what would you like to do:follow a path that has already been cut out, where you just have to trim some things, or have to clear a whole new path that no one can navigate. If I'm missing something please try to clarify what I'm missing not just say I missed something, thank you. (excuse the run-on sentence)

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    • Removing the apn is basically one edit, checking them is 10,000 plus edits, finishing them is countless more. Even without the other reasons behind the change, this is by far the least work.

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    • Monkeyjack wrote:

      ...to remove all the apn's would take a LONG time because there are over (like sforhope said) 10,000 pages that have apn's on them

      As SforHope noted, the plan is to redirect the {{apn}} template to {{A}}, which means that all of those 10,000+ uses will become uses of {{A}} instead, resolving the issue in one edit, as Kyle pointed out above.

      Monkeyjack wrote:

      ...but if you just make sure they are right, then you would not have to edit every page, you would only have to check them, saving hours of repeating the same process over and over again.

      I don't suppose you realize this, but asking us to "check them" is essentially asking 1-5 people to read every DC Comic published to date, cross reference every character's appearance, and make notes. This would be years of work. See also: we're already doing that.

      If DC ever closes up shop (unlikely), and we have the opportunity to say "THE WIKI IS COMPLETE. EVERY DC COMIC EVER IS COMPLETELY DOCUMENTED!" - then we would have all the data we'd need to just check. Given that this wiki is always a work-in-progress, and the fact that all of the work is shared between 10-20 people on a regular basis, an accurate chronology of character appearances is not do-able unless every appearance of every character is accurately recorded on the wiki already. italics.

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    • Hatebunny
      Hatebunny removed this reply because:
      dupe post
      00:23, January 4, 2017
      This reply has been removed
    • Hatebunny
      Hatebunny removed this reply because:
      duplicate post
      00:22, January 4, 2017
      This reply has been removed
    • Re: notes full of "blank appears next in blank" items;

      My preference is that we remove those, and any other note such as "blank appears in a hallucination" (which can instead be indicated using the green Comic Appearance Templates).

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    • Hatebunny
      Hatebunny removed this reply because:
      dupe post
      00:23, January 4, 2017
      This reply has been removed
    • I have already expressed my strong opposition to this plan in earlier threads, and have been outvoted (especially by the admins). I respect the process, so I won't raise any more fuss about this matter. I plan to rely on the dcuguide/dcuwiki chronologies for the appearance sequences I used to be able to get from this site.

      That being said, I would make one request: The {{a}} templates populate a database that allows this website to generate "appearance lists" (for example, Stephanie Brown (New Earth)/Appearances). These appearance lists can be sorted alphabetically by comic name, or by "most visited". Would it be possible to also be given the option to sort these appearance lists by comic date?

      Of course, comic cover dates are not identical to in-universe chronological sequence. Nonetheless, 90% of the time a list of appearances by comic date will supply an interested reader with the information that he or she was looking for when they (currently) use the {{apn}} previous-and-next arrows.

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    • The categorization system is part of the MediaWiki software/mainframe. This means that the alphabetical and most visited displays on the categories is something that works gobally across Wikia (now Fandom). We can't alter or modify these options, much less include a new option. It's not a feasible solution.

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    • Lawrence King wrote:

      These appearance lists can be sorted alphabetically by comic name, or by "most visited". Would it be possible to also be given the option to sort these appearance lists by comic date?

      SforHope has addressed the fact that this aspect is out of our hands.

      That said, it isn't as though we haven't tried to create some kind of page/code that could do what you want, but every past attempt has been hampered by a missing variable in the code.

      To get technical:

      It is possible to sort the items within a category using manual sorting options by entering a category and adding (after the pipe) a letter or string of words/numbers. This will sort within the category by that letter or string.

      The only way to sort appearances in a standardized and automatic way would be to use the Date related fields of the comic template as sort strings. In order for that to work with {{A}}, the template would have to know what has been entered into the Day, Month, and Year fields (if they are filled out).

      Because the {{A}} template is not part of the comic template, it does not have access to the variables {{{Day}}}, {{{Month}}}, and {{{Year}}}, that are used by the comic template, so there's no way to tell it to use them for sorting. If it were part of the template, then our Appearances sections would be a lot less versatile, and every appearance (even garbage entries like "Unnamed Henchmen") would be required to have an appearance category. This is not ideal.

      Just now, even, I tried an alternative method, which would use DPL to call on day, month, and year values without needing to be part of the template. While it is able to call on those variables successfully, it also requires that the DPL call knows the pagename that it's being used on, and it can't. One method I tried was to have the aforementioned DPL template call on a variable ({{{1}}}) and then make that variable {{PAGENAME}} within {{A}} (which, I had determined was a possibility by forcing every instance of the template to output {{PAGENAME}} in plain text next to the character's name).

      That method failed, however, because for reasons unknown to me, the DPL template will not work on the same page from which it is calling the variables (even if you type in the page name instead of using the magic word like I did above). You might notice, not that you'd ever have reason to, that similar template {{Cid}} breaks when you use it on the same page that you used as input (the "title" portion works, and then the date portion breaks).

      I don't know if it's doable with Lua, but it doesn't appear to be doable with any of the MediaWiki compatible parser functions at hand.

      Basically: there is no way to do this automatically, unless someone better at wiki-coding than I am has some special knowledge that I don't.

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    • Gotcha. Thanks for the detailed explanation. It's good that we can leverage the wikia platform -- otherwise we'd be as limited as GCD and dcuguide/dcuwiki, which as far as I can tell couldn't allow the general public to directly edit their pages even if they wanted to, and don't have a bunch of great features that we have here. So while the various wikia software limitations can be frustrating at times, they are better than the alternative!

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    • 1.I apologize for not noticing the thing about editing the template and not the pages, because I could not find the page about templates anywhere when I posted my original reply (and there was a glitch in the links)2. wouldn't this still be erasing a lot of work by other people? 3.I noticed I'm already outvoted (like, 12 to 2) about keeping APN's so you (the party that is for removing APN's) don't need to keep saying stuff to me about what I'm missing I think like the first reply(after tupka's) was informative enough. Thank you

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    • Monkeyjack wrote:

      Wouldn't this still be erasing a lot of work by other people?

      It would, and that's unfortunate. However, the share-alike license that Wikia/Fandom uses requires that users consent to their work being "remixed" to the extent that anything you contribute to a wiki can be edited, altered, or removed, regardless of how much effort you put into it. Ideally, nobody's hard work would be edited, altered or removed without a good reason. In this case, it's not quite as cleanly cut as good and bad, as there are both pros and cons. Most of us acknowledge that there are good things about APN, but the negative things about it make it a hassle to maintain.

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    • Thank you for clarifying, I for some reason cannot access the policies board without my browser crashing i'll try again later.

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    • The solution to the "how to keep track of relevant appearances" part would probably lie in better-researched "Recommended Reading" lists.

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    • I certainly don't require any convincing on this, the fact that the template's links were manually-generated alone made the very idea of it unworkable and subjective. Something like that simply doesn't scale, and no matter how motivated a particular person may be to maintain such a setup, that doesn't make it a good use of their or anyone's time. It's each person's own decision how they choose to spend their time, of course, but in a collaborative system our efforts affect and are affected by others'. To "fix" the current APNs by expending even more time and effort on additional manual maintenance, hand-connecting pages together with links... would be the editing equivalent of "throwing good money after bad".

      Especially when APN is such a limited-utility feature. The only time it's really particularly useful is on extremely irregular characters, where their previous appearance within a title may be dozens or hundreds of issues earlier. But we already have appearance listings for each character in the database, automatically-populated and comprehensive. Being able to navigate to the "previous" or "next" appearance of (for example) the Anti-Monitor, as an individual page, still seems far less useful than just visiting Category:Anti-Monitor (Antimatter Universe)/Appearances

      The Appearances list isn't ordered "chronologically" according to the character's personal timeline, no, but as pointed out that's mostly because no such ordering actually exists, and attempts to impose one are going to be subjective and prone to mistakes. The one advantage APN offers over any other presentations of the same information is in reality an imaginary advantage, and it requires a hellish amount of work to keep up that false front.

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    • Why not just look up the publication dates of each appearance of the character? That should be a good way to verify the chronology. Most comics are released in chronological order. Just because some people are using it wrong shouldn't make us remove apn. That is useful when following a character and don't want to miss his/her guest appearances.

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    • SeanWheeler wrote: Just because some people are using it wrong shouldn't make us remove apn. That is useful when following a character and don't want to miss his/her guest appearances.

      Keeping it leads to other people constantly using the template incorrectly. We've established there's no definitive list of appearances, but there are still a few users every now and then that go and start including apns with information from who-knows-where. If it's not removed, the misleading information can only get worse instead of getting any better.

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    • FeRDNYC wrote:
      .... APN is such a limited-utility feature. The only time it's really particularly useful is on extremely irregular characters, where their previous appearance within a title may be dozens or hundreds of issues earlier.

      I definitely disagree. And this isn't just a matter of opinion, because I myself have found this feature useful dozens of times. IN fact, I've spent a lot of money on comics I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

      For example, as a big fan of Batman: Year One, I was interested in what other modern-age Batman stories take place during this same year. Using the APN feature, it was easy to find a complete list (in case you are interested, this includes the "Shaman" story which begins in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #1, as well as the first story in Batman Chronicles #19).

      The "appearance lists" would not have shown this information, even if they could be sorted by cover date (which they can't), because the cover dates of these comics are long after the cover dates of Batman: Year One. Nothing else on this entire Wiki enables our readers to discover this information. This information exists solely within the soon-to-be-deleted APNs.

      As I've said before, I was massively outnumbered in my support for APP and APN, and I respect the process here. The admins have put far more hours into this site than I have, and they have a right to a larger say. Although I have a few hundred edits to my credit, I primarily access dc.wikia.com to read the site and learn information about comics, not to edit it, and therefore my opinions aren't as valuable as those who access it primarily to write it.

      Moreover, I can still access this information at dcuwiki/dcuguide! Long after dc.wikia.com site deletes the APP/APNs, chronological appearance information will still be available at dcuwiki/dcuguide... and used comic dealers will continue to receive my money as a result.

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    • And a competitor site isn't a good reason to get rid of APNs either. I'm not familiar with dcuguide and don't know how to access its chronology.

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    • Their site has two URLs. The newer one (http://dcuwiki.net) seems to have died, but the other (http://dcuguide.com) still works.

      A complete list of their chronologies can be found here: http://dcuguide.com/w/Chronologies. But it's usually easier to just use their search box.

      Major characters have multiple chronologies. For example, if you use the search box and search for bruce wayne chronology, you will see one chronology for the Earth-Two (Golden Age) Batman, one for the Earth-One (Silver Age) Batman, one for the post-crisis (Modern Age) Batman, and one for the New 52 Batman: [1]

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    • SeanWheeler wrote: Why not just look up the publication dates of each appearance of the character? That should be a good way to verify the chronology. Most comics are released in chronological order. Just because some people are using it wrong shouldn't make us remove apn. That is useful when following a character and don't want to miss his/her guest appearances.

      But how is that any different from just looking at the character's Appearances list? That would show you all of their guest appearances.

      Lawrence King wrote: The "appearance lists" would not have shown this information, even if they could be sorted by cover date (which they can't), because the cover dates of these comics are long after the cover dates of Batman: Year One.

      Well, see, right here we have exactly the problem with APN: We can't even agree on a definition for how it should be used. Lawrence King values it for information that, were we to follow SeanWheeler's suggestion (to connect appearances in publication order), it would no longer provide. But to maintain that information that Lawrence King values, we can't set any (straightforward, well-defined, concrete) rules for how APN should be used, and it has to remain largely subjective and left up to individual editors' judgement.

      If people want to keep appearance-ordered lists for certain characters, for their timelines within a given crossover Event or whatever, I personally think there's a place for that on this wiki. But even then, the place (IMHO) should be a single listing subpage underneath their Character page (and perhaps linked to from the Event page as well, for those lists that represent Event chronology). This connecting-up of individual issue pages, with no way to view the linked chronology other than by stepping through individual entries (and hoping nobody misconnected any of them along the way, breaking the chain and either sending you spinning off on a nearly impossible-to-detect — from an editorial/maintenance standpoint — tangent, or getting you stuck in a navigational loop) seems like just about the worst conceivable (least convenient, least consumable, least maintainable, most bandwidth-wasteful) way to present the information being discussed. And that's even in the unlikely event there are no errors across all of the template calls so that what's presented is accurate to the editor's intent... and that editor's intent matches the wiki reader's expectation.

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    • FeRDNYC, I agree that there are two different concepts here: appearances ordered by the comic's cover date, and appearances ordered by in-universe canonical sequence. The former is an objective concept (aside from the fact that dozens of comics share the same cover date); the latter involves decision making that is sometimes objective and based on careful reading, but at other times arbitrary or simply wrong.

      I actually value both of these kinds of information. The former is available both on GCD and dcuguide, while the latter is available only on dcuguide. My last post focused on the latter, but if you scroll up you will see I earlier proposed that the "Appearance Lists" be made sortable by cover date, which would produce the former. (Sforhope and Hatebunny explained why this is not possible.)

      If someone has the software skills, I would suggest that they write a script that follows all the APP/APN links like a spider-bot, and saves the results. Then after the APP/APN tempates are deleted, the saved results could be used to generate for each character an "appearances in canon order" list. Of course, these pages would be incomplete and imperfect, but since this is a wiki, people could then edit them and make them better.

      And as you point out, a separate page of this sort would be vastly superior to the current method, which as you so correctly stated, is "least convenient, least consumable, least maintainable, most bandwidth-wasteful" method possible.

      I suspect that if this were done, it would reveal that 90% of the APP/APN information was taken from dcuguide in the first place. The next step would be to edit these chronologies to incorporate even more dcuguide information, because their chronologies divide up comics into pieces, and this information was lost when their data was converted to our APP/APN data. (Example: The fact that Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 takes place between pages 17 and 18 of New Teen Titans v.2 #13 is stated on dcuguide's pages, but isn't reflected in our APP/APN data.)

      Of course, the APP and APN arrows are not internally consistent. Neither is dcuguide, by the way -- I have found tons of errors in their chronologies. (Some are inconsistencies, such as a character's chronological page not matching the "before" and "after" statements in an individual comic page; others are errors, such as giving too much creedence to Superman triangle numbers even when they give implausible results.) But in my opinion, once wiki-editors decide that the presence of errors in a mass of information justifies the fullscale deletion of that information, they have adopted a perfectionist philosophy that is fundamentally incompatible with the very concept of a wiki.

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    • Well damn... Adding/correcting APNs and correcting typos was almost the only reason for me to make edits here (>800 edits since I registered here). I was using DC Chronology Project with information I got from comics I read. I guees it was for nothing then. It was an interesting expirience and I'll continue work on this thing on my own. I'll still will be making edits here, though with less enthusiasm. Don't take this as a rage quit, it's just one of those unavoidable things that make me sad.

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    • Lawrence, I agree that there should be some way of knowing things like that Shaman takes place in the same year as Year One. That said, a tiny right/left arrow may lead you to that conclusion, but doesn't so much convey that information. That said, information like that would serve us best on a page like Batman: Year One which does not currently contain that information, and is primarily focused on the Frank Miller story. Though it would be a vastly difficult project, arranging the New Earth Batman page in the same way as the Prime Earth page (with character history arranged in an in-universe chronological way), would probably be of some use as well.

      Re: "once wiki-editors decide that the presence of errors in a mass of information justifies the fullscale deletion of that information, they have adopted a perfectionist philosophy that is fundamentally incompatible with the very concept of a wiki."

      I don't mean to be dismissive when I say that you are exactly right. The "Old West" era of this wiki ended the better part of a decade ago. For years, the administrative team has been working to make this website one with curated, quality, and accurate content. And that has meant doing away with things that didn't work, and creating a lot of new content, and focusing really heavily on filling empty pages, rather than making empty pages (which is still a fight that we are losing). As I said above, there are better ways to convey the information you want to maintain here. Sorting appearances by release date is not particularly useful in any case. Storlylines from book to book rarely play nice in terms of timeline. Editorial does not keep the reigns that tight. Inconsistently using APN to do in-universe next appearances versus publication date next appearances is a huge problem. The subjectivity/internal inconsistency of the former makes it impossible to categorically apply across the wiki, and the near uselessness of a publication-sorted chronology (not to mention the sheer amount of work we still need to do on this wiki to make it remotely accurate) makes the latter pointless.

      Blindly copying our information from dcuguide isn't a good practice for a wiki that wants to be reliable, consistent, accurate, and informative. Inconsistency throws accuracy into question, and kills information. Being able to rely on us to have another websites' information duplicated here isn't really the kind of reliable we'd like to be, besides.

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    • Lawrence King wrote: If someone has the software skills, I would suggest that they write a script that follows all the APP/APN links like a spider-bot, and saves the results. Then after the APP/APN tempates are deleted, the saved results could be used to generate for each character an "appearances in canon order" list. Of course, these pages would be incomplete and imperfect, but since this is a wiki, people could then edit them and make them better.

      I can actually offer up a little algorithmic trickery that'd save you (meaning "whoever") the page crawl — which I wouldn't recommend as a method, anyway, since there'd be no way for such a spider to handle loops or disconnections. (It could detect them, sure, but then what? If you're walking a list and hit an appearance with no "Previous" or "Next" link, depending on the direction you're traveling, where do you go next? How would a bot even begin to figure that out? How would a human? APNs aren't a single continuous chain, they're a vast collection of small, unconnected chains which begin and end at unknown locations.) But spidering the APN links shouldn't be necessary anyway.

      We can easily get a list of all pages which contain APNs, that's just the list of template transclusions: Special:WhatLinksHere/Template:Apn?hidelinks=1&hideredirs=1. Scanning all of those pages and pulling out all of the {{apn...}} strings would give you... let's call it the "Master APN Node List" for the entire wiki, a massive list of four-tuples of the form (Character,Prev,Appearance,Next) — each one representing a call to {{apn|[[Character]]|[[Prev]]|[[Next]]}}, found on the individual issue page [[Appearance]].

      Filter that master list down to any one unique Character, and you have that Character's APN Node List. A quick parsing function that knows how to connect up Appearances via their corresponding Next and Prev entries can at least make a first attempt at sorting the list into a coherent timeline.

      In the ideal case, theoretically, you end up with a single unbroken chain of Appearances that stretches from (First appearance) to (Death).

      Or, more typically, from (First appearance) to (Death) to (Resurrection) to (Death) to (Revealed as clone) to (Original rescued) to (Depowered) to (Lost in parallel dimension) to (Shocking return) to (Rebooted) to (Hated out of existence by new writer). #BecauseComics

      More commonly, I strongly suspect, what you'd end up with is a collection of "timeline chunks" — clusters of chained appearances that can internally be sorted into a section of timeline, but aren't connected to each other. The disconnections may represent anything from missing nodes, to holes in the chronology, areas of conflicting chronology, or even simple wiki editor error. This is also the point where any actual disjoint linkings (AppearanceA.Next is AppearanceB, but AppearanceB.Prev is AppearanceC — O NOES!) would be revealed.

      Regardless the nature of any problems or gaps found, this would be the starting point for human curation of the list, and the task of resolving these discrepancies would fall to its editors.

      Since the decommissioning process for the APN functionality would (broadly) involve simply replacing the current Template:Apn with a shim that just discards the Prev/Next parameters and then passes the character link to Template:A, primarily to avoid having to edit every page where Template:Apn has been transcluded, the deactivation isn't a hard deadline because the APN data doesn't go away. All existing APN calls will still be present right where they are today, in the form of all those {{apn|...}} transclusions that become equivalent to {{a|...}} when APN functionality is turned off. However, it would be best if any sort of APN data extraction happened as quickly as possible, because once Template:APN no longer provides any functionality over Template:A it's likely that some editors will begin "cleaning up" APNs (replacing them with {{a|...}}) as they edit pages, in the interest of readability/simplicity.

      But in my opinion, once wiki-editors decide that the presence of errors in a mass of information justifies the fullscale deletion of that information, they have adopted a perfectionist philosophy that is fundamentally incompatible with the very concept of a wiki.

      See, on that point I wholeheartedly agree. Believe me, if the only problem with the APNs were that they contained fixable errors, I would be leading the charge to say, "So fix the errors!" Removing information instead of improving it is always a poor decision. But the errors in the APN data are actually the least of my concerns. The APN implementation has fundamental design flaws that make its data unfixable, and any additional work put into "improving" the information is wasted as long as it's still being stored in its current flawed form.

      Because every change to APN data requires edits on multiple separate pages, detecting errors (automatically OR manually) in an edit history is impossible, since multiple pages' edit histories have to be compared together in order to reveal mistakes. The process of correcting any errors found becomes even more error-prone, because fixing errors also requires syncing up changes across multiple pages. If something is erroneously inserted into a list on a page, that edit can simply be reverted to remove it, and nothing else is affected. But when a mistake is introduced into an APN chain, reverting any single edit only causes further breakage. The person correcting the information has to make sure they check all affected pages... after first figuring out which pages that would be.

      The chief problem with the entire APN concept is that it commits one of the cardinal sins of database design: Data duplication. And it doesn't merely allow or facilitate data duplication, it requires it on a massive scale. Data duplication is inherent to its very design.

      Going back again to my list-editing comparison, when you insert a line into a list article (or think of it as "inserting an item into a table row", for the purposes of this discussion), that item's relationship to the other items is implicit in the position it's placed at. The Previous item is the one in the row immediately above it. The Next item is the one in the row immediately below it. That relationship information is only stored once, in the form of the item's row number. Assigning those relationships is done with a single edit, to a single page, which is easily reversible. (An item's data may of course be the subject of multiple edits, either consecutive or scattered through the history. But the only edits that change the Previous/Next relationships between items are ones that either insert new lines, or move existing lines up/down within the list. Those changes are always atomic — contained within a single operation.)

      But for every APN node, each of its relationships to other items must be duplicated on two separate pages, and any changes to those relationships cannot be done in a single edit. Nor, therefore, can any single edits that change APN relationships be safely reverted without chasing down corresponding edits on other pages. Effectively, every change to APN information REQUIRES one or more edits which break the existing chain, introducing a temporary error into the data, and then repairing the break with subsequent additional edit(s) on other pages so that the data is put back into sync. Mistakes or omissions that occur in that process are impossible to spot, because it would require examining multiple separate pages' edit histories to determine whether the edits all match up correctly.

      That doesn't merely result in errors which need to be corrected, it makes it impossible to avoid the continual introduction of new errors as information is modified. Primarily that's due to the duplication of Prev/Next relationships. Not only do those all need to match up in both directions for the APN chains to work correctly, but in any cases where they don't match up, there's no way to determine from the immediately available data which one is correct (assuming they're not both wrong) — someone would have to refer to the source material, or examine the broader context and make a judgement call on what's implied by it. All of that just to correct what'd probably be a simple and obvious typo, if it were done as a flat list edit. There's a reason database designers are so horrified by data duplication, and go to such great lengths to prevent it.

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    • I agree. Separate list pages are better from a database perspective.

      Also, whereas our APN templates focus solely on characters (or any other things that show up in our "Appearance" lists), a separate list page can do anything. One excellent example on this site is the "Reading Order" section of the article Batman: No Man's Land. This is of great utility to our users. And it isn't based on just a single character (since there is no character that appears in every comic in this list).

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    • FeRDNYC wrote: True Things™

      I was going to suggest earlier, a method for deriving an "accurate" list of appearances in chronological order (by publication date, specifically) by using a cloudbased shared spreadsheet system, but I reneged when I remembered that it's not just ONE character that would need to be tracked, it's every character, and every comic.

      Then I realized - in a bit of a "duh" moment - that compiling a list of every appearance by every character in every comic by release date is essentially what the wiki is already doing. It's just incomplete, and as FeRDNYC rightly points out, every incomplete page that gets completed and introduces new data requires that every APN link in a chain of links be changed unless it's the first or last in that chain. That is a very fatal flaw.

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    • FeRDNYC wrote:

      Lawrence King wrote:

      If someone has the software skills, I would suggest that they write a script that follows all the APP/APN links like a spider-bot, and saves the results.

      I can actually offer up a little algorithmic trickery that'd save you (meaning "whoever") the page crawl [...]

      We can easily get a list of all pages which contain APNs, that's just the list of template transclusions: Special:WhatLinksHere/Template:Apn?hidelinks=1&hideredirs=1. Scanning all of those pages and pulling out all of the {{apn...}} strings would give you... let's call it the "Master APN Node List" for the entire wiki, a massive list of four-tuples of the form (Character,Prev,Appearance,Next) — each one representing a call to {{apn|[[Character]]|[[Prev]]|[[Next]]}}, found on the individual issue page [[Appearance]].

      Filter that master list down to any one unique Character, and you have that Character's APN Node List. A quick parsing function that knows how to connect up Appearances via their corresponding Next and Prev entries can at least make a first attempt at sorting the list into a coherent timeline.

      So, I started playing around with how to actually do this, and I appear to have hit a snag at the first step.

      I know that Special:Export can be used to dump the source for a list of pages, so that the code could be parsed for instances of {{Apn|...}}. And Export even includes a handy tool to automatically dump the list of pages in a Category, though that list can also be pulled (and presumably is pulled, by Export) using an API call to Articles/List.

      But I'm not seeing any (good) way to pull the equivalent of Special:WhatLinksHere/Template:Apn via either the API or Export. Attempting to Export that page results in an empty export, containing no list items. And there doesn't appear to be any way, using the API, to get the equivalent of Articles/List for the transclusions of a Template, rather than a Category.

      It does seem to be possible to web-scrape the list; retrieving http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Special:WhatLinksHere/Template:Apn?limit=1000&hideredirs=1&hidelinks=1 returns what appears to be the first 1000 pages. (It throws up a nice warning about adblocking, when the output file is loaded locally, but the content is still there and can be parsed out, or that adblock-warning JavaScript disabled). So, that might be an option, though as it involves parsing the HTML output for the page list it's not an ideal one.

      Is it possible to pull the list, or even better the source, of all pages which transclude Template:Apn directly? Or do we need to add an autocategorization to the template, so that it adds all of the pages where it's called to [[Category:Pages which contain APNs]] in order to identify them? (And going that route, would all of those pages have to be touched afterward, to fully populate the Category, or would that happen automatically? Could the Category update be forced, either by a user or an Administrator?)

      If we did have a fully-populated [[Category:Pages which contain APNs]], then the rest of the work of collecting APNs should be fairly straightforward, but right now I'm not seeing a way to do what's needed without it. I can easily add that categorization to Template:Apn, but I wanted to get some input on (a) whether that's actually necessary, and/or (b) whether it would really work. (If the pages all have to be visited afterwards, there's kind of no point.)

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    • Hatebunny wrote: as FeRDNYC rightly points out, every incomplete page that gets completed and introduces new data requires that every APN link in a chain of links be changed unless it's the first or last in that chain. That is a very fatal flaw.

      I'm not sure it's quite that bad, if I'm understanding correctly. Inserting a new Appearance between two other existing Appearances, which is the worst-case scenario, would require three edits.

      If we have {{Apn|Char|PrevA-1|B}} on page A, and {{Apn|Char|A|NextB+1}} on page B, then inserting an appearance between them involves:

      • Editing page C to include {{Apn|Char|A|B}}
      • Editing page A to {{Apn|Char|PrevA-1|C}}
      • Editing page B to {{Apn|Char|C|NextB+1}}

      It gets only a little squirrelier if A or B contain a transclusion of the form {{Apn|Char}} (where the template "assumes that the character's previous and next appearances are the previous and next issues of the current volume") — C has to be inserted into the appropriate side of the call, and the other one still left blank, and the arguments on Page C's APN can't simply be cut-and-pasted over.

      ...However, even that is far, far more involved and breakable than simply inserting a line into a list. And whereas a list insertion is a no-brainer, I had to double-check my own logic on this like 7 times to make sure I had all of the changes right.

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    • FeRDNYC wrote: If we did have a fully-populated [[Category:Pages which contain APNs]], then the rest of the work of collecting APNs should be fairly straightforward, but right now I'm not seeing a way to do what's needed without it. I can easily add that categorization to Template:Apn, but I wanted to get some input on (a) whether that's actually necessary, and/or (b) whether it would really work. (If the pages all have to be visited afterwards, there's kind of no point.)

      All of this could be done with a bot. Should it be done with a bot? No. Probably not. It's unclear what use a list of places the template was called on would be. It would fail to distinguish between characters on a page. It would fail to give any indication of which character had appeared next. And if it could do that, it would just be re-duplicating information that had already been duplicated from dcuguide.

      Honestly, if you have any coding skill whatsoever, you should focus your attention instead on helping us fix the myriad of broken code in our Lua templates, because the guy from Wikia abandoned us with them full of bugs that nobody seems to know how to fix.

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