Could you either parse the text or add a syntax for converting numbers(kg/lb, liter/gallon, etc.) between metric and imperial? Possibly by showing the original input, but if I hover it with the mouse, it'll display it in the alternate scale.

Suggestion 1

Simply parse the numbers as written, though this can be harder, and may have undesirable side effects.

Suggestion 2

Simply allow people to wrap measurements in brackets, like [1kg], and it'll get parsed into a way that displays both 1kg and 2.20lbs.

  • Seems useful to me...
    – G__
    Feb 15, 2012 at 17:08
  • Seems like a really good idea to me, too. Feb 15, 2012 at 19:04
  • 1
    Seems useful, but there's this on Cooking.SE: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/a/120
    – user241
    Feb 15, 2012 at 19:40
  • I think the Cooking.SE link should be mandatory reading for this thread; it covers some good ground. Feb 26, 2012 at 6:00

2 Answers 2


I do not think we should be doing any automatic conversion. I do not think we should have optional unit-conversion tags. I do not think there should choose either Imperial or metric to be the site standard.

An optional syntax to have both units display would inevitably become de rigeur, making it a conflict between editors adding the brackets and new users not knowing the syntax. I don't think that's a good outcome. We'd also be introducing a SE-specific design wackiness in the body of questions and answers, instead of sticking to the easily-understood standard of text with common, limited markup.

Further, I'm not sure that we're addressing a real problem here. Some people think in pounds, other people think in kilos. Converting is simply not that big a deal. I don't naturally think in kilos, but I get better at it every time I'm forced to.

  • It is a real problem at least for me. Sep 20, 2013 at 5:16
  • @JensSchauder In what way is it a problem for you? I don't think multiplying or dividing by 2.2 (or just 2 for an estimate) is really that much of a problem. Sep 20, 2013 at 9:07
  • The problem is as you describe I think in SI units. So if I see pounds, feet or fahrenheit I have to do the conversion, which takes time and often made me stop thinking about a question or answer. Multiplying by 2 is easy but often sufficient. Multiplying a three digit number by 2.2 closing in on the limit of what I can do in the head, and without your comment I would have to look up that factor first. Same for all the other conversions. IMHO this is exactly the task, computers and programs should be used for. Sep 20, 2013 at 15:22

I have no power to actually make this change (that'll have to go through SE HQ), but I'd suggest introducing the concept of "context" in a user's profile. That context would include expected units of measurement, allowing proper display for each user. The user's country could be used to guess at a reasonable default.

A bigger issue is getting posters to actually use some appropriate tag to represent units of measurement in their posts, so I wonder how much the feature would get used for that reason. Trying to automatically parse the text seems iffy... the best approach might be to introduce the new tags for the users, and also parse the text but have the parse result as review items that need to be human-approved before being swapped in.

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