Template talk:Infobox military unit

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Countries and branches

Some questions/thoughts as a starter for ten: --Mia (talk) 11:23, 19 November 2014 (PST)

  • We'll need a list of country names to ensure consistency e.g. United Kingdom, Britain, Great Britain? --Mia (talk) 11:23, 19 November 2014 (PST)
"British Army" is always the name of the branch/service, but "United Kingdom" is the best name for the country because it included the whole of Ireland at that time. Data for locations/theatres may need to divide "home" service into Great Britain and Ireland to cater for the Easter Rising.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:44, 19 November 2014 (PST)
We probably don't actually need the country as the army is really the important differentiator (and the country someone fought with doesn't necessarily match where they are 'from'). If there are no objections I'll take out 'country' --Mia (talk) 10:21, 8 December 2014 (PST)
Country has turned out to be useful because there are some service names that don't make the country explicit (eg Royal Navy or Royal Air Force) and some units were recruited outside the country that the service belonged to (eg Isle of Man and Channel Islands were outside the UK but raised some units for the British Army). --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)
  • What's the best label for the 'regular/territorial' field? --Mia (talk) 11:23, 19 November 2014 (PST)
Not sure. Wikipedia sometimes uses "branch" for this but more often for the same thing as you're using branch for. What you're calling branch is called "service" at IWM Lives.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:44, 19 November 2014 (PST)
Service probably works, which would free 'branch' for regular/territorial. Another option would be 'category'. These overloaded terms are going to make the documentation more important but hopefully I can include labels in the infoboxes to make it easier. --Mia (talk) 14:35, 19 November 2014 (PST)
I've tweaked the template to include 'service' vs 'branch', and added 'unit' to record brigade, division, regiment, battalion etc while I was at it. The regular/territorial thing might be a bit messy, especially as it seems to have changed over time (and only applied in the UK anyway) but we'll see how it goes. When it's settled I'll update all the documentation to match --Mia (talk) 14:57, 19 November 2014 (PST)
The distinction between Regular Army, Territorial Force and Special Reserve was stable from 1908 to 1919, although very rarely a unit could change from one to another (the only example I know is from 1913). The US National Guard is more or less analogous to the Territorials.--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:16, 21 November 2014 (PST)
I'm mostly offline for the next few days but I'll try to find out if the same applies to Canada etc, unless you know offhand? --Mia (talk) 08:09, 21 November 2014 (PST)
I'm not sure if Canada had anything like that, but I'm fairly sure that if it did, it would be a separate service from the CEF and not a subordinate branch. Similarly, Australia may have had some part-time home units that were separate from the AIF.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:31, 21 November 2014 (PST)
Canada had 'Reserve' and 'Permanent' Force regiments. --Mia (talk) 08:55, 5 December 2014 (PST)
The concept that we're describing as 'branch' is much more widespread than we used to think. Most countries have something that needs to be represented in this way. The current list of branches and services is in the documentation for this template. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Qualifying branch names with service names

The branch names currently in use (see template documentation for up to date list) are potentially ambiguous because they depend on the value of the country and/or service parameters, eg "Regular Army" could be British or American, "Territorial Force" could be British or New Zealand. I'm thinking about changing the branch names so that they're explicitly qualified with the names of their parent service, eg "Regular Army (British Army)". I think this would make the structured data cleaner, especially when there are multiple values, and would allow wikilinking the value to a page that explains what it is. Not an urgent thing but I'm noting it here so I don't forget. --GavinRobinson (talk) 09:11, 25 February 2017 (PST)

I think it's a good idea - thanks! --Mia (talk) 10:21, 25 February 2017 (PST)

Here's a provisional list of branch names qualified by service and/or country. I think some are distinctive enough that they don't need qualifying.

  • country = Australia
    • service = Australian Army
      • branch = Australian Imperial Force
      • branch = Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
      • branch = Citizen Military Force (Australian Army)
      • branch = Permanent Force (Australian Army)
    • service = Royal Australian Navy
  • country = Canada
    • service = Canadian Army
      • branch = Canadian Expeditionary Force
      • branch = Permanent Force (Canadian Army)
      • branch = Non-Permanent Active Militia (Canadian Army)
    • service = Royal Canadian Navy
  • country = India
    • service = Indian Army
    • service = Indian Imperial Service Troops
    • service = Indian Volunteer Corps
    • service = Indian Defence Force
  • country = New Zealand
    • service = New Zealand Army
      • branch = Permanent Force (New Zealand Army)
      • branch = Territorial Force (New Zealand Army)
      • branch = New Zealand Expeditionary Force
  • country = Portugal
    • service = Portuguese Army
      • [branches unknown]
    • service = Portuguese Navy
  • country = South Africa
    • service = South African Overseas Expeditionary Force
    • service = Union Defence Force (South Africa)
      • branch = Active Citizen Force (South Africa)
      • branch = Coastal Garrison Force (South Africa)
      • branch = Permanent Force (South Africa)
  • country = United Kingdom
    • service = British Army
      • branch = New Army (British Army)
      • branch = Regular Army (British Army)
      • branch = Special Reserve (British Army)
      • branch = Territorial Force (British Army)
      • branch = Volunteer Force (British Army)
    • service = Volunteer Training Corps
    • service = Royal Air Force
    • service = Royal Marines
    • service = Royal Navy
      • branch = Regular Navy
      • branch = Royal Naval Reserve
      • branch = Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
    • service = First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
  • country = United States
    • service = US Army
      • branch = National Army (US Army)
      • branch = National Guard (US Army)
      • branch = Regular Army (US Army)
    • service = US Marine Corps
    • service = US Navy

Also not sure what to do with the Royal Navy branches, or whether any Royal Navy units (as opposed to individual personnel) even had branches. --GavinRobinson (talk) 11:24, 4 April 2017 (PDT)

Types, levels and unusual units

I see we now have No 3 Australian General Hospital‎. It should be quite easy to adapt the infobox to deal with this and all sorts of obscure units. A hospital is effectively a unit, it has war diaries and is part of the tactical hierarchy (in this case, its parent would be Lines of Communication, Western Front). The current way of dividing a unit name into type and level is perfectly logical for infantry but doesn't work for hospitals. It also risks confusion where the same level has different names (eg infantry battalion vs cavalry regiment) or the same name can mean different levels (eg infantry regiment vs cavalry regiment).

I suggest keeping the general type (infantry, cavalry, medical, engineering etc) but maybe changing the field name from "type" to something like "role" or "general type". The second field would be more useful and flexible if it was a specific type, eg:

  • Infantry battalion
  • General Hospital
  • Field Ambulance
  • Field Company
  • Field Survey Company
  • Tunnelling Company
  • etc

These can link to pages explaining exactly what each type of unit is/does. --GavinRobinson (talk) 07:16, 25 November 2014 (PST)

'Type' was always a problematic name (going back to Notes towards modelling information about World War One Battalions so 'role' seems a much better fit to me.
Are you suggesting a different name for 'level' - 'specific type' or something - to cope with that wider range of cases? Terms like 'regiment' and 'battalion' already seem so variable (e.g. between different countries, and within countries) that they always require further context to make sense of them. This would also be a perfect time for linking out to established vocabularies to provide exactly the right interpretation of 'regiment'. --Mia (talk) 16:40, 3 December 2014 (PST)
I'm proposing getting rid of "level" and replacing it with something like "specific type". I think this would be less work to begin with and would be much more flexible and expandable. "Infantry Regiment" would be one specific type, "Cavalry Regiment" would be a different specific type, each linking to a page that explains what it is. The "Infantry Regiment" page would also have to explain that a British infantry regiment is a different thing from a French/German/American infantry regiment.--GavinRobinson (talk) 02:29, 4 December 2014 (PST)
Ok, let's try it. I've got some Australian engineering units I want to try so this would be a good test. I've changed it on http://collaborativecollections.org/WorldWarOne/Template:Infobox_military_unit and http://collaborativecollections.org/WorldWarOne/Template:Battalion --Mia (talk) 08:10, 4 December 2014 (PST)
Specific type seems to be working quite well, especially now that the infobox automatically links to the relevant definition page. With the content we've got now it should be more obvious how this works and why it's likely to be useful. The main drawback is that filling in the specific type definition pages is a lot of work and we're a bit behind with it, but that information needs to be somewhere anyway. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Service Names

For the values of the "service" field, I recommend using the actual name of the service rather than general terms like Army, Navy etc. Strictly speaking, the AIF isn't the Australian Army, and the CEF isn't the Canadian Army. Also it might be necessary to treat some or all of the following as services in their own right: Red Cross, Volunteer Training Corps, military nursing services, other women's services, various voluntary ambulance units.--GavinRobinson (talk) 07:16, 25 November 2014 (PST)

Does that mean deviating from how it's used on Wikipedia? (Which isn't necessarily a biggie). --Mia (talk) 16:40, 3 December 2014 (PST)
Yes, it would deviate from Wikipedia. There are likely to be lots of cases where the needs of a general encyclopedia are different from a more specialised project like this. Wikipedia dodges a lot of the issues I've raised because its coverage isn't very detailed.--GavinRobinson (talk) 02:23, 4 December 2014 (PST)
Is there any way to add a controlled vocabulary? Freetext could get messy. --Mia (talk) 08:17, 4 December 2014 (PST)
I suspect enumerated values would need some sort of extension that lets users enter template data through a form. It would be good to control names of countries, services, branches, general roles, theatres of war, realationship types. But specific_type is probably best left open because it needs to be flexible, and populating the enumerated list would be hard.--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:34, 6 December 2014 (PST)
Agreed.--Mia (talk) 10:21, 8 December 2014 (PST)
Some of the things I used to think about service names were wrong but the documentation of this template is up to date. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Alternate and variant names

Making a note that this is discussed on Talk:British battalions and regiments in World War I where GavinRobinson (talk) suggested:

  • full name: the longest form of the name, including full regiment name and any optional words
  • short name: the full name shortened according to the same rules as the page title
  • any other alternative names

Names are also discussed on Template talk:Infobox command structure in 'Canonical names for battalions that change regiments?' and 'Unit name changes and restructures'.

My feeling is that stable names (alternate forms, short and long versions) should be in this core infobox, but name changes related to organisational changes (mergers, restructures etc) should be in separate, repeatable infoboxes. --Mia (talk) 17:27, 3 December 2014 (PST)

I think the main infobox will only be able to accommodate names that didn't change. If there were any changes, whether related to organisational changes or not, it will have to refer readers to separate infoboxes. As always, the British are awkward because some unit names didn't change during the war, some changed without any organisational changes, and some changed as a result of organisational changes.--GavinRobinson (talk) 02:16, 4 December 2014 (PST)
Did nicknames change? ie do they belong in the 'relatively stable names that can go in the main infobox' camp or in the 'temporally-specific repeatable infoboxes' camp? --Mia (talk) 08:17, 4 December 2014 (PST)

I reckon the maximum number of official names a British unit would have in this period is 3 (but I could be wrong: my expectations have been confounded a lot recently). Some Wikipedia infoboxes allow multiple values for the same sort of thing by numbering the parameter names, so you could have:

  • name1 =
  • name1_start_date =
  • name1_end_date =
  • name2 =
  • name2_start_date =
  • name2_end_date =
  • name3 =
  • name3_start_date =
  • name3_end_date =

Maybe start with 4 or 5 to be safe, or just expand it in future if necessary. This would make it possible to keep all the changes of official name in the main infobox and get rid of the need for a separate repeatable infobox for name changes. Are there any drawbacks to doing it that way?

I've gone off the idea of showing standardised short names because they're an awkward halfway house between full names and page names. They might cause more confusion than they help.

As for nicknames, maybe have another parameter in the main infobox called something like alternative_names which could contain free text giving a comma separated list of other names. These could also include alternative official identifiers such as the old numbers of British line infantry regiments or letter codes of record offices. I would avoid calling it "nickname" because that's too narrow and might invite all sorts of obscure and derogatory slang.--GavinRobinson (talk) 09:25, 6 December 2014 (PST)

So it's an 'Other names' infobox? I'd add in a free text line for 'reason for change' for each pair but otherwise that looks good. As long as alternate names (including nicknames) are searchable I can't see a need to include them in separate fields. --Mia (talk) 10:21, 8 December 2014 (PST)
I meant it as a possible way of including all names in the main infobox (military_unit). If there's any separate infobox for names it would be better to have a repeatable one for each name. I think people will expect to see at least one name in the main infobox, so keeping them all there would be good if it can be done.
Often there isn't a particular reason for name changes: they just decided to change the system of naming certain units without changing anything else.--GavinRobinson (talk) 08:36, 9 December 2014 (PST)
Ok, I've updated Template:Infobox military unit (diff) to include alternate names and allow for up to five official name changes. I suspect we'll run into a few quirks in how this works so the infobox structure or documentation might need tweaking once there's a body of examples of it in use. --Mia (talk) 11:18, 11 December 2014 (PST)
That looks good. I've just thought that provided all the names are together in this infobox, is there a need to duplicate dates? Could you just have unit_name1, unit_namechange_date1, unit_name2 etc? And start of first name and end of last name should coincide with years active. Or is it better to keep it explicit?--GavinRobinson (talk) 02:43, 13 December 2014 (PST)
Thinking ahead to future queries, it's probably better to keep it explicit to make searches for date ranges easier; we also can't assume that anyone editing the records is interested in the names either side so they might not add entries for every name change which would make dependencies tricky.
I haven't actually finished the infobox template changes but the infoboxes can be used anyway now the overall structure is set. --Mia (talk) 05:08, 13 December 2014 (PST)
Current practice for naming conventions is documented on the pages in Category:Naming conventions. Any further discussions on that topic should probably be on the talk page for the relevant country, eg Talk:Naming conventions for British units. Duplicating dates for name changes was actually a good call because there are some odd cases where a unit was temporarily broken up and later re-formed with a different name, but is conventionally treated as the same unit (I can't remember examples off the top of my head but this definitely happened with at least one British division). I'm not sure why I suggested numbered parameters for unit names as it doesn't seem like a good idea now. If we change to form-based editing in future it would be much more convenient for unit names to be in a repeatable sub-template. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)


Reviewing previously created pages to update data structures

For now, this is mostly a note to make that it will have to be done at some point. --Mia (talk) 08:17, 4 December 2014 (PST)

Most pages should be up to date but there could be a few Canadian or New Zealand units created early on that need checking. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Dates Active

Will there be cutoff dates for the start and end of the First World War era, or will this reflect the whole existence of a unit? If there are cutoff dates, how to indicate that a unit started before or ended after?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:44, 6 December 2014 (PST)

My notes on the original 'modelling' doc say 'If no start or end dates, assume it was applicable throughout the war'. It would be best to state it explicitly in the infobox, especially for automated imports. Would 'predates the war' and 'postdates the war' work in those circumstances? --Mia (talk) 06:53, 6 December 2014 (PST)
How are dates formatted? Would it cause problems if a parameter value contained text that isn't part of a date? If not then "before 4/8/1914" and "after 31/12/1919" might be good to start with. These dates might be refined in future.--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:17, 6 December 2014 (PST)
The original Wikipedia templates seem to cope with text strings or dates (and the underlying code is PHP which should be able to tell the difference). --Mia (talk) 10:21, 8 December 2014 (PST)

Size at full strength

How precise does this need to be?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:44, 6 December 2014 (PST)

Indicative/approximate only - it's mostly for people new to WWI research or to the organisation of units by a particular country --Mia (talk) 06:12, 6 December 2014 (PST)

Disbanded

Does this duplicate end_date?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:44, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I think it needs to go into 'unit changes', but I haven't sorted out whether one infobox format should deal with organisational changes as well as name changes as they are often, but not always linked. In the interests of not over-thinking things it might be best to have one infobox for 'unit changes' that can record name changes, disbanding, forming, etc --Mia (talk) 06:51, 6 December 2014 (PST)
We're now using the 'disbanded' field for a free text description of where and how the unit was disbanded. There's a similar one for 'created'. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Automatic wikilinks

It might be useful if the template automatically turns the values of these parameters into wikilinks:

  • country
  • service
  • type
  • specific_type

--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:44, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I'll do it with the others (assuming I have time before the end of the week/my fellowship here) --Mia (talk) 10:22, 8 December 2014 (PST)
Doesn't matter when, as long as I know not to put link markup in myself. (That goes for anywhere else I've suggested this too.)--GavinRobinson (talk) 08:29, 9 December 2014 (PST)
Some of this is now done. Some fields need multiple values, which is harder to do now the infoboxes aren't using Lua, but array maps would do it if we start using forms for editing. --GavinRobinson (talk) 05:20, 8 January 2017 (PST)


Suggested list of types

This is a suggested list of values for the "type" field:

  • Administration [for record offices and similar; could also cover Pay Corps]
  • Air [planes, airships, balloons]
  • Armoured [tanks and armoured cars]
  • Artillery [including trench mortars]
  • Cyclists [currently classed as mounted but might be better as their own thing]
  • Engineering [anything involving construction, demolition or repairs]
  • Formation [for division level and above because they contain diverse unit types even if nominally infantry or cavalry]
  • Infantry
  • Logistics [anything involving procuring or issuing supplies, or operating transport]
  • Machine guns
  • Medical [including nursing, dental and sanitary services, but not veterinary]
  • Mounted [can cover cavalry, mounted infantry and camel troops]
  • Police [for military or colonial police units]
  • Ship
  • Signals
  • Training [currently used for officer cadet battalions]
  • Veterinary

Not sure what to do with units that released gas from cylinders. Having a separate type for chemical weapons is awkward because lots of gas was delivered by artillery shells.

Anything else missing? --GavinRobinson (talk) 10:50, 12 June 2015 (PDT)

Citation parameters

We're already testing a citation parameter to automatically generate ref tags for the command structure infobox - see Template talk:Infobox command structure#Parameter for citation?. That uses one parameter to generate one footnote to cover the whole infobox, but this infobox is more complicated. It contains too much data for one footnote to be adequate as it wouldn't be clear which source relates to which fact, but a separate footnote for each parameter might be overkill and too much repetition. I'm thinking we could group facts together to be covered by a parameter-generated footnote. Maybe:

  • one covering all of country, service, branch, type, specific_type and size
  • one for start date and created
  • one for end date and disbanded
  • one for each official name, also including that name's start and end dates and reason for change
  • one for all alternate names

--GavinRobinson (talk) 07:38, 22 January 2017 (PST)

It seems like the same sources are used for many statements, so grouping them together makes sense. If a particular statement is complicated then it could be discussed in the body of the article, with additional footnotes added to those sentences as on Wikipedia articles. --Mia (talk) 03:20, 30 January 2017 (PST)
By the way, I haven't commented on individual suggestions you've made over January 2017 but they all broadly seem like positive steps - thank you! --Mia (talk) 03:20, 30 January 2017 (PST)

There's now a demo of what I suggested above using {{infobox military unit2}} and 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, UK. It seems to work but I'm not sure about the best place to put the footnote that covers all of country, service, branch, type etc. so it's obvious that it refers to all of those but nothing else. Maybe a third column spanning all those rows would be better than in its own row as it is now. --GavinRobinson (talk) 11:17, 19 February 2017 (PST)

Does HTML still have colspan for tables? A row underneath each grouping would allow more specific labels than 'Sources for above' (e.g. Sources for overview, sources for start dates). Ideally it'd be in slightly less prominent type so it doesn't break up the table too much, but is there for people who like the reassurance of sources. --Mia (talk) 02:33, 20 February 2017 (PST)
Wikitables can use CSS properties for rowspan and colspan - there's an example in the current version of the infobox where it says "For more information on what infobox fields mean". Next time I have enough spare time I'll try to demo two versions: one with footnotes in rows underneath and one with them in a column on the right, then we can compare them directly. Do you have any suggestions for how to make the type less prominent without causing problems for visually impaired readers? --GavinRobinson (talk) 09:06, 25 February 2017 (PST)
That's a good question! It shouldn't affect screenreaders (assuming they're better at tables than they used to be), and others may have their text size increased so smaller text should still be legible, which may be a reason to use a smaller size rather than a slightly lighter colour? --Mia (talk) 10:24, 25 February 2017 (PST)
I've now done this with {{infobox military unit2}}, User:GavinRobinson/Test unit and 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, UK. It seems to work well but the text size might need some adjustment. If there are no problems with having the citations in rows underneath I probably won't bother trying the alternative I suggested with another column on the right as I now think it would be harder to implement and understand. --GavinRobinson (talk) 11:44, 2 April 2017 (PDT)
Thanks for that! The font is a little small but otherwise I think it works well. --Mia (talk) 11:22, 3 April 2017 (PDT)
I've changed the font from 60% to 80%. Does that look right or would 90% be better? --GavinRobinson (talk) 10:33, 4 April 2017 (PDT)
I've now made the changes to the live infoboxes. The font size for the footnote rows in the table might still need changing but it's controlled by the class .sourcerow in MediaWiki:Common.css so it doesn't require editing the templates. We'll also need to find and move any existing footnotes in infoboxes but I'll get onto that when I have time.--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:38, 23 April 2017 (PDT)
All existing footnotes in infoboxes now moved to new parameters.--GavinRobinson (talk) 11:07, 8 May 2017 (PDT)
Nice work - thanks Gavin! --Mia (talk) 15:51, 9 May 2017 (PDT)

Tracking progress

We need better ways of representing how complete, accurate and well-referenced the data on a unit page is as this would help us to know how far the project has progressed, make it easier for volunteers to understand what needs doing, and provide better documentation for people who want to reuse the data. There are currently some templates and categories that do some of this, but not very well and they don't cover everything (eg {{wo95import}} or Category:British units needing name checks).

I'm thinking maybe we could add some extra parameters to this infobox that would have Yes/No values to indicate whether facts are complete, accurate and cite reliable sources. The template could also use these values to assign categories similar to Units with personal narratives and Units needing personal narratives.

They could be grouped something like this:

  • one covering all of country, service, branch, type, specific_type and size
  • one for start date, created, start date of first name, start date of first relationship
  • one for end date, disbanded, end date of last name, end date of last relationship
  • one for all name changes, including dates and reason for change
  • one for all command relationships except start of the first and end of the last
  • one for all theatres of war (except maybe start of the first and end of the last if they coincide with creation or disbanding)

This is slightly different from the grouping for footnotes but they're designed to do different things. The first of everything seems to go together because units will often have the same date and source for creation, first name and first command relationship.

I'm not sure how to display the data from these new fields in the infobox clearly. Any suggestions?

Is the list above too many extra parameters and too much detail? Could we get away with just one for the main infobox, one for all relationships and one for all theatres? Or would that be not enough detail? --GavinRobinson (talk) 07:38, 22 January 2017 (PST)

Good questions! It depends how they're to be used, and how easy it is to spot where additional information is needed beyond the basics for dates, relationships and theatres. In other words, would much be lost between 'units with command relationships' and 'units without command relationships'? Even if it was, if there was always a call to add more detail where necessary, that might be if the purpose is to show where information is needed. --Mia (talk) 03:26, 30 January 2017 (PST)
I can think of four use cases with slightly different needs:
  1. For us to track the overall progress of the project and target efforts to improve the structured data.
  2. For people researching a soldier or unit, who need to know how far they can trust the information that they read on the page.
  3. For people who want to re-use large batches of structured data, who might use programs to automatically generate statistics about accuracy and completeness.
  4. For new volunteers who want to help improve the structured data and so need to know what needs doing.
Categories would probably be easiest for 1, and might have some use for 4. Displaying data visually in infoboxes is best for 2. 3 should only need the parameters to exist and be documented, even if the data isn't displayed in the wiki. I think it's likely that 4 will be mostly interested in specific units that they've already researched and so will be able to tell by looking at the existing data what needs improving. There may or may not be a smaller subset of 4 who are willing to improve batches of pages by adding certain facts and references from standard reference books (eg order of battle or army list), and they might benefit from categories. --GavinRobinson (talk) 01:43, 19 February 2017 (PST)