Help:Archiving a Talk Page

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It is customary to periodically archive old discussions on a talk page when that page becomes too large. Bulky talk pages may be hard to navigate, contain obsolete discussion, or become a burden for users with slow Internet connections or computers. There may be circumstances where it would benefit discussions to keep older sections visible on the talk pages; namely, to allow newly visiting editors to see which issues have been addressed already and avoid redundant discussion. Notices should also be placed at the beginning of the talk page to inform all editors of an archive.

Regular articles are not archived because previous versions may be seen in the history tab; the practice of archiving is particular to talk pages and noticeboards, which often swell to great length. Archiving one's own user talk page is optional; some users simply blank the page, as the history is kept available for future reference. For this specific case, the use of "permalinks" can provide an easy way to display an archived view of a talk page at a given moment, though there's no control on thread organization or presentation. See below for more details.

The talk page guidelines suggest archiving when the talk page exceeds 50 KB or has more than 10 main topics. However, when to archive, and what may be the optimal length for a talk page, are subjective decisions that should be adapted to each case. For example, ongoing discussions and nearby sections they reference should generally be kept intact.

When archiving by creating subpages there are two different procedures that can be used: cutting and pasting the content, or moving the page. Cutting and pasting, which retains the talk page history in a single location, is generally preferred. It is helpful to label archives with dates and a brief summary of the main discussions.

Also consider refactoring discussions before archiving.

Subpage archive method

Using a subpage is the most popular method for archiving a talk page. There are two alternative procedures which can be used to create a subpage: Cut and paste or move. Whichever way you prefer, you should generally stick to one procedure or the other on any given page, since mixing the two may cause confusion.

Archive pages should be named as follows: take the name of the talk page, and add '/Archive #', where '#' is the number of the archive.

For example:

Remember to use the correct namespace – the part before the colon (:) – when archiving your own user talk page. It should start with "User talk:", not "Talk:".

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Cut and paste procedure

  1. Click on edit this page for the talk page you wish to archive.
  2. In the edit box, highlight all the text you want to archive, right-click (Windows/Linux) or control-click (Mac) and then select cut. The text will then be copied to your clipboard. Note that any WikiProject header templates should remain on the main talk page and should not be cut and pasted to an archive page.
  3. While still in the edit window, make a link to the archive name you plan on creating – you can link directly to a subpage by putting a slash (/) in front of it.
    • If you're making a topical archive, use the name of the topic, for example [[/Place of birth debate]].
    • If you're just archiving old discussion, use the next available number; so if the last archive page was Archive 3, call it [[/Archive 4]].
    • If there are no archives yet, call it [[/Archive 1]].
    • Archive links can be conveniently placed in an archive template (How to do this is described in the archive box section below)
  4. Save the page. You should now have a page of recent discussion with a red link to your archive at the top.
  5. Open the newly created subpage by clicking the red link. Paste the old discussions from your clipboard into the edit box.
  6. Add {{talkarchive}} to the top and bottom of the page. This adds a notice explaining that the page is an archive, and links back to the main talk page.
  7. If this is a numbered archive, you can add a navigation template to make it easier to navigate through to other numbered archives. See the section navigation templates below.
  8. Save. You have now created an archive.
A collapsible and searchable system

Use {{Archive box collapsible}} to make the links from your main talk page collapsible and also have a searchbox that will search your archives.

Advantages of cut and paste

  • Discussions can be archived by topic, rather than chronologically. This may be appropriate on talk pages where certain topics have a tendency to come up again and again, and it is convenient to have all past discussion on an issue in one location. Archiving by topic is usually less appropriate for personal user talk pages.
  • Unlike the permanent link archiving method, the archive can be edited for clarity. For instance, headers can be renamed to be more helpful, unsigned comments can be noted, irrelevant comments can be moved to a more appropriate place, chit chat can be removed, etc. (However, this kind of editing might be considered a mild form of refactoring.)
  • The links used throughout the discussions remain indexed within Wikipedia. This may also be a disadvantage, as 'what links here' is often clogged with archives and user talk pages.
  • Editors who have the article on their watchlist will not have the archived talk page put on their watchlist, which happens when talk pages are archived by moving them.
  • Unlike the move procedure it does not reset the history of the page.

Disadvantages of cut and paste

  • Unlike the permanent link archiving method, new users may accidentally reply to inactive discussions, and the page is open to vandalism.
  • This method assumes good faith edits by the person creating the archive. When that trust breaks down, without the edit history on the archive page, it can be very complicated to prove that the archive is a genuine copy of the information being archived from the current talk page.Example.
  • Unlike the move procedure archives are not automatically added to the watchlists of the editors already watching the main discussion page.

Move procedure

  1. Subpage archives can also be created by moving the talk page to a subpage.
  2. Add {{talkarchive}} to the top and bottom of the archived page. This adds a notice explaining that the page is an archive, and links back to the main talk page.
  3. If this is a numbered archive, you can add a navigation template to make it easier to navigate through to other numbered archives. See the section navigation templates below.
  4. Alter the redirect link on the now empty talk page into an ordinary link so that the Archive can be found by clicking on the link. It is probably best to place the link into an archive template (How to do this is described in the archive box section below).
  5. Cut and paste any WikiProject header templates from the archive page back to the new talk page.
  6. Copy discussions that are still active back to the original talk page. If the active discussions are large, as an alternative, copy the section headers of the active discussions onto the new page and provide a link to the same section in the archive eg:
Archive standards
See Help talk:Archiving a talk page/Archive 1#Archive_standards for earlier discussions on this topic

Advantages and disadvantages of the move procedure

This method moves the page history, making user contributions displayed as being to the archive page rather than the original page, and makes it difficult to search for past edits to the talk page by a certain user. On the other hand, clicking the history tab always gives the history of the current page and the current page only, which makes it easier to get diffs from archives. Moving the history to the archive makes it easier to prove that the archive is a true copy of the talk page as of the moment it was archived, though it allows the potential for losing or tampering with comments when active discussions are moved back to the main talk page after the move.

Navigation templates

If the archive page is a numbered archive page ("Archive #" where # is the number of the archive), you can add a navigation template to make it easier to navigate through to other numbered archives.

  • {{archive-nav}} needs the archive number as a parameter – for example {{archive-nav|3}} on Archive 3.
  • {{archive nav}} similar to the above, but a dynamic list of links, – for example {{archive nav|33}} on Archive 33.
  • {{atn}} is similar, but doesn't need a parameter.
  • {{talkarchivenav}} combines {{talkarchive}} and {{atn}}, adding navigation features to the standard notice.

Archive box

On regularly archived talk pages, it is useful to have an "archive box" template. Common usage is to place the archive box below other header templates and before the first section heading so that the box appears to the right of the table of contents.

If the new archive has been created through the cut and paste procedure and if the page already has an archive box, add the link to the new archive page to it.

If the new archive has been created through the move procedure and if an archive template already exists, copy the archive template from the newly created archive page to the talk page and add a link to the new archive page to it.

If there is no archive box yet, you may want to set one up: