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Wikipedia:The Salem Redirect Trials
(true title)

dark blue arrow path down and then to the rightcomputer printer with green plus signcomputer printer with red minus signcomputer disk icon of CD/DVD with WikipediA and 1.0 written on it

Don't let the "true title" fool you – redirects are not "witches", they're just... well... sometimes perhaps just a bit too "bewitchin' and beguilin'". This essay is about redirect pages, more specifically, the printworthiness or printability of redirect pages that are in article namespace (mainspace). So here is the place to show existing ideas and to come up with new ideas (while sometimes discarding old ideas).

This essay will hopefully lead all of us to a more and more useful guideline for determining which mainspace redirects are printworthy and which are unprintworthy.

Brief word about the words[edit]

Printworthy/unprintworthy: to some editors, the last half of each word sticks out like a sore thumb. That's why I prefer "printable" and "unprintable". The "worthies" are deeply embedded, though, so let's move on.

This isn't a "witch hunt". We are not out to pick favorites nor to burn witches. We just want to know how to decide what kinds of redirects are or are not suitable for a printed or CD/DVD version of an encyclopedia. And that's not always so easy.

Sometimes it is pretty easy, though. And that's a good place to start:

The GOOD[edit]

There are many different kinds of mainspace redirects. Surnames, misspellings, other capitalizations, alternative-language redirects, and so on. Let's pick "easy" redirects like, say:

  • Mr Easy (oops, forgot the full stop/period after "Mr")
  • Mr. Easy (with a full stop/period after "Mr")

Both of these are redirect pages, very similar, and they both redirect readers' eyes to the same article, Mathews Mr Easy, a homebuilt aircraft. So why is the one that has no full stop/period "printable" and the other "unprintable"?

bird in flight

The first one is a shortened form of the article title and the name of the aircraft. Many readers use search engines to find articles. When "Mr Easy" (without the full stop/period) is typed into a search field, readers are led to the aircraft article. On the other hand, "Mr. Easy" with the full stop/period after "Mr" is not a part of the article name nor the name of the aircraft. And yet, you can rest assured that many people will unconsciously add the full stop/period as they type in the words "Mr. Easy". So the redirect with the full stop/period ("Mr.") is a good search term, too, even though it is not exactly like the aircraft name in the article title. Since technically it's not a shortened form of the article title nor aircraft name, then it is unprintable (or unprintworthy). However we put it, it is not suitable for a printed version of this encyclopedia.

Then too, there is also Mister Easy – if that were a redirect to the same target, would it be printable? or unprintable? (Hint: It would be unprintable for the same reason Mr. Easy, with the full stop/period, is unprintable.)

Another reason to tag a redirect unprintworthy has nothing to do with its encyclopedic value, and has everything to do with its closeness in form to its target. The Hwando fortress redirect, which targets the Hwando article is deemed unprintworthy even though it's a historic name for the site. This is because if a reader types "Hwando fortress" into the Wikipedia search engine of an offline version, the Hwando article will appear in the dropdown menu before the reader can type "fortress". The reader can click on "Hwando" to get where they want to go. So there is no need to include "Hwando fortress" in a printed version of Wikipedia.

So – that was pretty easy – but wait! – it gets better! (Or should we say "badder"! ):

The BAD[edit]

As editors we make choices all the time. We make choices about article content, project pages, copyrights, biographies about people both living and dead. To make a choice... that's what we do.

When I first became concerned with this encyclopedia project and registered, I often hesitated to choose the printability of mainspace redirects. I just wasn't sure, and there was little guidance, little attention paid to the "printability issue". Now there is more guidance available, and redirects aren't so difficult for me anymore. That is not to say that I know "all there is to know" about categorizing redirects – I certainly don't. What I have learned about printability, I will share on this page so other editors can either use the information to the benefit of this project, or they can disagree and help make this "printability-guideline wannabe" better and better.

There's that word "better" again. The more complicated the redirect, and the more difficult to decide and choose the best redirect category (rcat) templates, then the badder (worser) it may be for an editor to make the choice before moving on to the next edit. Misspellings and other kinds of typos are usually some of the easiest redirects. In fact, {{R from misspelling}} (alias {{R typo}}) will choose for us. The "Unprintworthy redirects" category is populated by R typo by default. Yet even R typo sometimes gets a bit complicated. There are misspelled redirects that may actually be spelled correctly in different contexts. The example used at R typo is one possibility and there are others. Mostly, though, a typo's a typo, and typos are almost always undesirable in a printed or CD/DVD version of this reference work.

So don't be undecided about typos; you can't possibly know everything, but you can be sure of one thing:

  • If you choose to tag a redirect with {{R unprintworthy}} and another editor knows something about the redirect title that you don't, that other editor may change it to {{R printworthy}}. And it's never too late to discuss it with the other editor to determine why the change was made. Of course, in a case like that there are two clear paths for you:
  1. You can choose to overlook the reversion of your edit (maybe you were just a bit iffy about it, anyway), or
  2. Discuss it with the other editor, who by the way just might turn out to be wrong about the printability – it should never hurt to discuss it and possibly discover (or help other editors discover) new things about editing this encyclopedia.
So where does that leave us?
There's the GOOD (easy) and
there's the BAD (more complicated) and
then there's:

The really UGLY[edit]

An editor makes a choice to tag a redirect as printable. A few hours later the editor gets the ECHO that the edit's been reverted and another editor has chosen unprintable for that redirect. Sureness, certainty, the first editor feels correct and returns to the redirect to revert the other editor's choice. This is the beginning of ugliness on Wikipedia. When necessary, we want to try very hard to nip edit wars in the bud.

Whenever two or more minds work on any project, it may get complicated – and sometimes downright UGLY. If all those minds are ultimately focused on one ideal, one purpose, then half of the ugliness melts away. While it might sound a bit maudlin, the best way I know to melt the other half of the ugliness is that all those minds must find a way to be harmonious, like a clear and moving song that stays in your head and you love it. The ugliness of differences, of dissention and controversy, will easily melt away if as editors we continue to show – not just give lip service to, but SHOW – that we agree to work together with each other in a spirit of harmony. That is the path to true consensus.

And now... as we step down off the soapbox :


The alphabetical listing's third column shows printability (printworthiness). Basic choices are:

  1. Printable – rcat will populate Category:Printworthy redirects by default
    • Hard = cannot be altered
    • Soft = can be altered to unprintworthy by a parameter
  2. Unprintable – rcat will populate Category:Unprintworthy redirects by default
    • Hard = cannot be altered
    • Soft = can be altered to printworthy by a parameter
  3. No default – editors manually choose printability of redirects
  4. N/A – non-applicable – rcat is not used in mainspace or it is deprecated

Exceptions may also be noted in the third column, such as alternative language redirects that only default to "printable" when the redirect title is in English and its target is in another language. More detailed information about printability may be found in the template documentation pages of each individual rcat.

The Perfect World[edit]

These next few sections are really the meat of this essay, so here is where opposing views will appear in strength, and it will be the ideas and improvements from editors that will help this essay evolve into a Wikipedia project guideline.

Book (paper) version[edit]

In a perfect world, we might envision a printed version of Wikipedia in volume-sized books like other encyclopedias. When the entire range of English and other-language versions are considered, size and number of volumes would be considerably large. Even just the English version would stretch far longer than other similar works. And in a perfect world, a way would be found to make all this more practical and useful to readers. We don't live in a perfect world, and yet... maybe that's been done for us already?

CD/DVD version[edit]

A perfect world in our day and age does, in my humble opinion, include ways to make it much easier for readers to have access to the information in Wikipedia – much better than having to deal with all those volumes of paper. There have already been CD/DVD versions printed, and the workers who have charge of those projects learn new, useful things each time they do it. If we did live in a perfect world, then we might envision Wikipedia offered to readers in this way, with every bit – yes all – encyclopedic information properly edited and included on the disks. Let's get real:

The Real World[edit]

As we know, reality sets in and tends to dash the huge buildings and monuments of our imaginary visions into sand and dust. Then we are left to pick up and work toward more realistic goals. For example:

Book (paper) version[edit]

If this ever does happen, which most contributors think is unlikely, it would be a very limited edition that might include the best of featured and good articles, as well as those pages that are considered to contain vital, useful information for readers. Printable redirects would probably be listed in an index and would be helpful as search terms. While a printed version may ultimately be considered impractical, getting ready for it would still be a good idea. Redirects that would be considered printable and helpful to readers in a paper version would also serve their purposes in other kinds of offline Wikipedia editions, and those redirects that are unprintworthy and not suitable/encyclopedic would be left out of those editions:

CD/DVD version[edit]

As mentioned, this type of version is already a reality, and those redirects that have been correctly tagged and categorized, especially in terms of printability, have already been used (or discarded) for that purpose. The job of choosing which redirects to use would be so much easier if every single mainspace redirect were already correctly tagged for its printability. However, in real life there are "billions and billions" (just kidding) millions of mainspace redirects, and the majority of them still await editors to find them and sort them for their printability and to other maintenance categories.

So answer the heavenly question, PITA boy![edit]

To be, or not to be printable; THAT is the question. At present the calls are often subjective; it is left to editors to decide in many cases (all those rcats marked "No default" in the index) which mainspace redirects get included in any type of offline Wikipedia edition. That also goes for the many rcats that are deemed "soft" and their default printability may be altered one way or the other. Editors don't have to be full-time wikignomes to work on redirects part-time. Yes, I know there are other areas of this project that many editors see as more important than the correct sorting of redirects. It's still a big and waiting job, so any and all involvement is dearly appreciated!

The important question editors will ask themselves is, "Would this mainspace redirect be useful and helpful in, and therefore suitable for, an offline, printed edition of Wikipedia?" We are to consider such things as – is this redirect "helpful for readers to find information? (searches)" – is it "useful to journalists and students who write news articles and essays?" – or – is this redirect "not so helpful/useful and therefore unsuitable?" Is this redirect "alphabetically right next to its target title in an index of titles, and not actually necessary in a printed version?" – and like that. Trust yourself and rely on your good judgement, and like that. Learn from mistakes, and don't make the same mistake twice, and like that. And most of all have fun with it – we really have to have fun with making improvements to this great reference work.

If you, like me, plan to spend some time editing as a Wikignome, then I highly recommend spending some of your time categorizing redirects. It may not feel to some as rewarding as, say, the article creation/creation-monitoring/deletion job, or project-page improvements, or template edits, and so on. There is little recognition from others for this job; however, it's just one of those many things that needs to be done. So if you're interested in this type of work, then please pitch in and help us sort these redirects, especially those in mainspace that all must eventually be categorized as either printable (printworthy) or not printable (unprintworthy). You are always welcome to seek me out and ask me any questions you may have. If I don't know the answers (a distinct and fairly frequent possibility), then I will help find them. Many thanks for reading, and... happy bewitching! Joys! – Paine 


There has been an editorial claim that to include the printability rcats when other rcats already sort to a printability category is "redundant". An example would be the {{R with possibilities}} rcat, which sorts redirects to both the Redirects with possibilities and Printworthy redirects categories. So a redirect tagged with R with possibilities does not need to be tagged with the {{R printworthy}} rcat just to be sorted to its Printworthy redirects category. The editorial claim is that to place the R printworthy rcat on the same redirect that is tagged with the R with possibilities rcat is "redundant".

Two thoughts come to mind. First, true redundancy would be if a redirect were to appear more than one time in a category. That never happens. A redirect could be tagged ten times with the same rcat (not recommended) and it will appear in the rcat's category only once. So there is no true redundancy.

The second idea has to do with letting editors know what's going on. It should come as no surprise that one of the most important parts of being an editor on the Wikipedia project is to convey needed information to other editors. In the context of printability, this means that the information provided by each rcat must be allowed to appear on mainspace redirects. I consider and have always considered that the informative text found on rcats is just as important, if not more important, than the category sorts made by the rcats. Fact is, it is just as easy to use square brackets, as is done in articles, if categorization were all that was needed.

Rcat templates are used to convey information to editors, so I consider it to be imperative that maintenance category sorts be accompanied by the appropriate rcats, in this case the {{R printworthy}} and {{R unprintworthy}} rcats, in order to convey information to editors about the category sorts. Less is not more when it comes to informing editors with these rcats. If you've been on Wikipedia for any length of time, then you must know where I'm coming from, because you've been here long enough to know just how difficult it has been over the years to understand the redirect category system simply because in the past, editors would do things without explaining what they had done. That means that other editors who came behind them have had to dig and dig to find out why and how those past editors did things. So whenever we can, we now provide editors with information about why and how things are done for the express reason that it won't be as hard for them as it was for us!

That is what I think.
What do you think?

by Paine Ellsworth

See also[edit]