List-o-links

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Crystal wordprocessing.png This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

Thursday, July 5, 12:41 PM -- Today I'm going to expostulate (a fancy word for "spew") at you a bit on another one of my pet peeves. I hope you won't get the idea that I am trying to bury Wikipedia in negativism. I think Wikipedia is one of the good things in life, like ice cream and puppies; but sometimes, even a good thing can be improved. Almost everyone should read this and then go right back to doing whatever it was that they were doing before they read it--I only need a few, good people to read, agree, and act. There are certain pages, such as [[sport]], [[music]], some of the [[film]]-related pages, and some of the [[computing]]-related pages, that consist of--ugh--lists of internal links. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind lists. I love them, myself. I like making [[to do list]]s, and anyone who has read my e-mails and philosophy papers knows that I love to number items. It just makes things seem clearer, somehow, even when it doesn't.

Now, I would like to gently point out that a list, is, well, not an encyclopedia article.

What perplexes and bothers me is that so many people have so many things to say about so many topics, but when it comes to writing about a ''general'' topic, like [[music]], they feel compelled to...make a list. For example, we can read reams of content about [[electronic music]], [[Irish traditional music]], [[rap music]], etc., but when we go to [[music]], we find not a single prose sentence describing what music is. Nope--you can go look. Not a single sentence. Similarly with [[computing]], and a good number of other articles too, like [[film genres]] and [[actors]]. [[Computer]] simply directs the reader to [[computing]], as though the reader would not possibly want to know anything about computers in general.

The [[philosophy]] article was this way, too, for a good long time, until I decided to organize a few of those lists into prose sentences. Lo and behold, a decent article emerged. So, why don't we do that with all such articles-that-are-now-mere-lists-of-internal-links? Yes, yes, it's easier to write a list. I know. Go thou and do whatever thou wilt. But, as Spinoza said, "All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare." Inversely, all mediocre things are as easy as they are common.

--Larry_Sanger



I just felt inspired to make a list. Here is a list of Things That Encyclopedia Articles Are Not:

See What Wikipedia is not for the latest list!


I agree with this completely, I am very glad I read it. In the Stars article there are two LONG lists of stars, which seemed useless to me, but I hesitated to change them. Now I am resolved to eliminate the list, perhaps replacing them with a sentence naming a couple of them.

Jmccann


Well, I wouldn't eliminate the list unless it really is completely useless (I doubt that...). But adding many paragraphs to give essential information about the items listed, well, that's a lot better than most lists, I think. --LMS


Lists of links are not encyclopedia articles, but they are quite useful as navigation aids. I think we need real articles, but we need lists of links as well, and the lists should be at or near the top if they are on the same page as a real article, so we don't need to waste time scrolling down when using the list for navigation.

A certain encyclopedia that we shouldn't name, included lists of links even in it's paper versions of old. These usually had names like "Agriculture, articles on". Perhaps we could adopt a similar naming scheme for our lists of links.

[[Mathematics, articles on]] for the links page. [[Mathematics]] for an actual article on mathematics in general, with a link to [[Mathematic, articles on]] right at the top. Geronimo Jones


I said in the column that it's a good idea to have lists of links--just not as a replacement for actual articles. I disagree about having the links first. I think that if you're on a page about XYZ, you should reasonably be able to read an article about XYZ. Links to other articles, while essential, are not as important as the article itself. "The content's the thing." I think the idea of putting links on a separate page isn't a bad idea for a few topics--e.g., we might have a long article about actresses, generally, on [[actress]], but we might have a list of actresses on a separate page. For subtopics of main topics, my bias would be to keep the links all on the same page as the text. When you visit [[mathematics]] or [[philosophy]], you shouldn't ''expect'' to see a short article. :-) --LMS


I think lists are very useful. Saying they are not encyclopedia articles means defining an encylopedia article based on what has been customary in the past, rather than in terms of an encylopedia's purpose. If the purpose is to be an easy-to-access repository of human knowledge, then a list is an encyclopedia article. The article on [[manned space missions]], for example, is potentially very useful to anyone interested in that topic. -TS


Lists are vital! They function as indices, and can also be used in the future to bootstrap [[metadata]] and [[category scheme]]s. They also provide ideas to writers of new articles. At worst, unless deliberately frivolous or vandalistic, they do no harm. -- The Anome 13:38, 23 Oct 2003 (UTC)