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By the end of 2008, there were around 157,000 disambiguation pages in Wikipedia. Disambiguation pages are a very useful tool on Wikipedia, but articles they are not. While they are slightly encyclopedic (i.e. offering a short summary of the pages they disambiguate), they are certainly less so than images or portals, both of which are far more encyclopedic and offer a discussion of a defined, specific topic, which is much more in-line with the spirit of the Wikipedia article. Yet they both lie outside of the Article namespace. Almost 6% of pages in the Article namespace are disambiguation pages.
The MediaWiki software should not class disambiguation pages as articles.
This current state causes the following problems:
- The article count is off by over a hundred thousand.
- Special:Random should not take users to disambiguation pages.
- At Special:Lonelypages, many listed pages are disambig pages. This is because most of the disambig pages are lonelypages; which is exactly what they should be.
- A lack of discrimination by Special:Whatlinkshere and Special:RecentChangesLinked.
- The special pages: Articles with the fewest revisions, Articles with the most categories, Articles with the most revisions, and Oldest articles are all misleading
- It isn't immediately obvious whether a page is a disambig or an actual article from the title alone.
- Some pages are titled "PageName (disambiguation)" but most aren't (should be standardised).
- The (disambiguation) in brackets is ugly and interferes with the actual disambiguation process: there is a "Newton" in the sense of Newton (unit of force) and Newton (surname), but there is no such thing as Newton (disambiguation) - yet we have an 'article' for all three!
Fix it like redirects
A very similar situation exists with redirects. They are existing pages in the article namespace, yet offer no encyclopaedic content, therefore they aren't articles. However, this issue has been resolved, and redirects are no longer counted as articles. This is done by placing #REDIRECT at the top of every redirect page.
- Placing #DISAMBIG at the top of every disambiguation page
- Adding a boolean marker on the database (or a different disambiguation table), which is updated via a hook after a page save or a purge would work. That way, Article::isDisambig() (just like the existing Article::isRedirect()) would just make a quick query to the field or table, and return a simple yes/no, which then can be used accordingly.
However, this solution was rejected as "invalid". Perhaps if the subject is discussed in depth a simple solution can be found.
Create a 'disambiguation' namespace
The idea of a separate 'disambiguation' namespace has been proposed, but would not work as disambiguation is needed in the namespaces in which there are ambiguous titles. For example, MD is a disambiguation page in mainspace and Wp:MD, Help:Screenshot, Portal:Football are disambiguation pages in other namespaces.