Wikipedia talk:Only make links that are relevant to the context/Archive 1

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Support and oppose

Supporters of this rule include: HelgeStenstrom, 24, AdamW, Angela (except for dates which should all be linked), Viajero (less is more), Hephaestos, Bmills (linked articles should enrich the reader's understanding of the original article without seriously impacting readability),

Opponents include: sjc, Mike Dill, Patrick, Lirath Q. Pynnor, tbc, fonzy, till we *), Stan Shebs (since "relevant" is too subjective)

What I mean is: If someone has a liberal idea of usefulness of links and found it worth the effort to put in many, do not undo his or her work just because you do not need them, they do not do any harm. It is better to improve the link, if needed, or improve the linked article. For example, due to a link to pressure I noticed that only physical pressure was discussed in the article, and as a start, added a little bit more. - Patrick 22:35 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Same with me! I don't think its a good thing to link every word (that would be unreadable), but to link everything important. And that could be much more then described in the rule. If an entry discusses an author, every major book might be important, existing article or not. If an entry discusses a biography, dates linking to important events (and that could be a marriage, or the nobel prize) are important. -- till we *) 14:46 28 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Now wait a sec -- I'd like to put in a word for the opposing view. I say, link liberally (not insanely, but liberally).

Who the heck am I to say whether a particular word or phrase in the text is "relevant"? -- I say, leave it up to the reader. If they are interested in clicking, they can click. If not, the linked page isn't going to jump onto their screen by itself.

Indeed; an unnecessary link doesn't detract from the usefulness of the 'pedia as much as a potentially useful one that isn't there. Is it useful for topiary to link to Tim Burton? Possibly, if you're trying to gather every reference to topiary anywhere. But even if it isn't, I don't see it being harmful.
And if you do, well, it's a wiki -- march yourself over there and delink the man. Hell, you caan even delete the sentence entirely, although it is pertinent.
(Note that I refrained from linking "sentence," "man," "delete" etc.) --Calieber 16:15, 24 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I admit that some of this advice has more relevance on a system where a link in one direction always causes a link in the other, and that (as of late 2001) Wikipedia is not such a system, but when most encyclopedias cross-reference, they cross-reference to related articles. And perhaps some of this is just a "liberal vs. conservative" difference. --Damian Yerrick

Update: Under the new software, Wikipedia is now such a system thanks to special:whatlinkshere. --Damian Yerrick
One of my favorite features, without which Wikipedia couldn't be the productivity-killer it is (and guess what my linking philosophy is). Actually, that's a good corrective to overlinking or mislinking -- it's how I found that, until an edit or two ago, Tiger Beat linked to the article on osculation rather than the one on that band with all the make-up. --Calieber 16:15, 24 Oct 2003 (UTC)

I don't have a strong opinion either way on this.

I do take VERY, VERY (gee, am I shouting?) issue with the comparison of Wikipedia to Everything2. Everything2 is, in my opinion (and in the words of another Wikipedian) a random collection of crap. Wikipedia at least aspires to be neither random nor crap. That's all I wanted to say.  :-) --LMS


I don't compare the content of Wikipedia to the content of Everything2.com. Rather, I was comparing the software behind Wikipedia (wikipedia:PHP script) to the software behind E2 (Everything Engine 0.8 + e2clone nodeball). --Damian Yerrick


I'm inclined to go with "author's discretion" here as well. Some articles might work better linked liberally and some better linked conservatively. -- Lee Daniel Crocker


This is a wiki. If the reader thinks (s)he needs information on one of the terms on the page, (s)he can edit the page, add a link to the term, and then follow it. If the link is relevant it will probably lead to the right page. If the link is somewhat irrelevant, it will lead to an unrelated page, indicating the need to change where the link points to, or the need to disambiguate.

Link conservatively. Others coming after you are more likely to add new important links than to unlink irrelevant ones. -- Miguel


I am wondering if I have been guilty of overly liberal linking. I agree that we certainly don't want all dates to be links. It is a question of significance. In particular I rather like to have many dates in history articles be links. For one thing it makes the what links here link from the date be more valuable. This gives an intermediate step to listing everything that mentions a date in the events section of the date. If anyone wants to look back from 1502 or 1503 they will be able to find my tracks. Let me know if you think I've gone overboard. -- Jeff

I just took a stroll through 1503. I see nothing wrong with the birth or death dates of Julius II, Margaret of Burgundy, Elizabeth of York, Henry II, Alexander IV, Nostradamus, etc., but I would say that it is overkill to link the dates of minor events in the history of Muscovy, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Augustinian order, the lives of Michaelangelo (summoned to Rome), Copernicus (the year of his doctorate), or Borgia's imprisonment. Pope Pius's death is okay in his own article, but maybe not in Machiavelli's. I think the question to ask is, Would this event ever appear on a timeline under this date?. Ortolan88


That's good feedback Ortolan88. Your timeline question is an interesting one. My question is, What is someone looking for when they click on 1503? What I am looking for is the most interesting/important stuff that happened in that year. So as long as the date article doesn't run more than two pages, I would rather see more details, even if somewhat more minor. Perhaps separateing Events from Minor Events or Slice of life or something. These minor events might help ground history for a student or might lead them to new areas of interest.
I hadn't realized that both Machiavelli (on the death of Pope Pius) and Michaelangelo were both sent to rome in 1503. Find that interesting coincidence and a good example of why the minor events in major figures, or major events of minor figures, ought to fight for links. I say fight because there are clearly deminishing returns at some point.
The Muscovy article might be a good example to pick on. There are quite a lot of dates linked, but as I reviewed it, they didn't jump out at me as being inappropriate. Since the only back links would occur from what links here someone would want to look beyond the major events that appear on the date page. -- Jeff

So I guess my proposal is that the be a somewhat looser criteria for linking dates:

Proposed hints for linking of dates

  • The date should be relevant to some important aspect of the article
  • The standard for importance be more strict for recent dates
  • Date articles should be managed to show the most significant events and kept to a reasonable length. Thus, the further back in time, the lower the standard for inclusion.

The What links here for a date should provide a wide range of links to what events transpired in the window of time. -- Jeff

So, how would you edit the hints on the meta page to reflect these ideas? The reason I used the timeline criterion was the notion that someone might actually come along with a piece of software to pull all the linked dates together and make a timeline, or a java page that did something cute with "slice of life". I just don't think the Muscovy-Lithuania peace treaty of 1503 would ever warrant being picked up by any such software to be placed on a timeline. It's in the "noise" of European history and will never emerge, or so it seems to me. Ortolan88
Exactly. It's in the noise. So someone reading that article might think: "what were the main events at the time of this minor peace treaty" and then follow the link ... -- Tarquin 22:44 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)
If making that kind of meta page, you'll probably want to weight links based on some measure of perceived relevence; for instance, based on how many other pages link to them (à la Google) --Brion 22:56 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)
Where they are very likely to find (being the wikipedia way): "Lithuanians make peace with Muscovy". Some circles should be broken. Ortolan88
My proposal for the change to the hints on the meta page was listed. -- Jeff

What, exactly, is the problem with liberal linking? I see no real issues. --Dante Alighieri 22:54 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)

Clutter. The year Copernicus got his doctorate is only of interest to his mom. Ortolan88
... and to people doing their doctoral theses on Copernicus. ;) Sorry, I thought it was clear, I was kidding. Liberal linking can obviously cuse clutter. --Dante Alighieri 23:07 Dec 6, 2002 (UTC)
We will certainly get people following a link to the year XXXX, and then adding what they came from to that year page, out of a desire for "completeness". We'll have to make it clear somewhere that the year pages aren't meant to be complete, but useful summaries. We might need to go through them and trim from time to time. (the same way thousands of pages will link to the Order of Magnitude chain articles, but each chain page should give only a digestible list.) -- Tarquin
Right now there are some 30 links to 1503 (other than from other dates pages). There are about 80 hits searching wikipedia for "1503" and there are 19 items (8/5/6 events/births/deaths). This is after some work on my part to pull into the 1503 page events that I felt should be there, and linking references to 1503 that I found relevant. I don't see this as an overwhelming flood of information. In that context a peace treaty, however minor the players, might be worthy of note -- to the person who is bothering to look for what was happening in 1503. -- Jeff
I suspect that most pages pre-1750 or so will be even less well linked. (With notable exceptions like 1492 or 1066). For example, 1507 has nothing listed. Did nothing of note really happen in 1507? No body of interest was born or died? -- Jeff

I'm in favour of a simpler policy regarding links to and from dates:

  • All years, decades, centuries, etc in a non-date article should ideally be linked to the relevant date article. It provides context.
  • A reverse link from the date article to the non-date article should generally not be made, unless the event is genuinely significant for that year, decade, or century.

Which is what I do at the moment, and nobody's complained yet, and I was quite surprised to see this policy page, which contradicts that... Martin

Less links

Moved from Wikipedia:Village pump

I am hoping to encourage a slightly calmer approach to linking. I think the below list looks better if the dates are not linked. I do not think a user will come to that part of the article and decide to look at the date. I would suggest that dates be linked within an article, but not within a list of dated events which have their own articles.

Legislation

I used to think as you do, when I was young and brash. Like, 5 months ago. But now I have come to see the beauty of WikiWays. I now embrace WikiCulture, with its excessive linking (which is called "wikification", by the way), edit conflicts and that ruling elite that's never around when you need them. Take comfort in the fact that Wikipedia is not the most heavily linked website on the Internet -- I once saw a dictionary where every word was a link to the other dictionary entries. -- Tim Starling 04:45 Apr 22, 2003 (UTC)
Shino, what you say above is just plain common sense. Alas, some fool will come along and put links around every date and word in sight, sooner or later. The Wiki policy is to only link relevant things, but somehow it's much easier to add a doubtful link than it is to remove one. So our articles wind up being over-linked most of the time. Tannin
Actually, I'd link years in the above list (thus proving Tannin's point about fools... ;-). Reader "story" to justify it - Alice, a girl of just 14, reads the article on gun control. She's not a lawyer (though she will grow up to be a specialist in international law), and doesn't particularly want to get into legal nitty gritty, so the link to Gun Control Act looks uninviting. But Alice wonders "what was 1968 like? What kind of society was it that decided that guns needed control. So she clicks on the 1968 link and finds... well, probably a large collection of random links, but ideally she'd find an overview of that year.
The "problems" with overlinking are the underlines, which impair speedreading. The solution is to change the stylesheet so that links are a different colour, but not underlined. They can go underlined on mouseover. Martin


You can set in the preferences whether you want links underlined or not. - Patrick 20:40 Apr 22, 2003 (UTC)
As a beast radiating in curiosity, I love clicking on what seem like meaningless links. Once you get there, you're off on some exploration. You chance upon something, and your knowledge changes. Regulations are in place that weed out the useless articles; therefore, ideally, all articles in wikipedia are useful; therefore, there can be no useless links. All wiki-links link to something useful. Part of what makes wikipedia so fantastic is ability to explore, to make connections. Personally, the more wiki-links within an article, the better, because (ideally) all wiki-articles are useful. Kingturtle 23:16 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC)~
Using preferences to change the way links show risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater - I'll overlook the relevant links. It's also a level of sophistication that I think we should not impose on new users. Rossami 16:02, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Consider me in agreement with Kingturtle. I find following links addictive like eating potato chips or peanuts, & part of the fun of Wikipedia, as I explain on my home page. Feel free to debate me about this there. -- llywrch 23:35 Apr 23, 2003 (UTC)

Relevant links

Moved from Wikipedia:Village pump on Friday, June 13th, 02003.

What is the policy on linking? Apparently some user's (like User: Dan Keshet and User: Evercat) cant tolerate a link to international community on a page about a leader in the "international community" nor a link to governor-general about a man who was a governor-general; whereas, other user think such linking is part of the very core of wikipedia.

I wonder why, if someone doesn't like the links, they don't edit their preferences differently. Pizza Puzzle

Those particular links wouldn't make a lot of sense in context. Rather, link to international community and Governor-General. --Brion 20:52 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)


Thats really not the point Brion, this isnt a case of their improving my link, they are simply deleting it. A link to governor is better than no link at all, when the topic is a "military" governor. Pizza Puzzle

That's exactly the point. If you're going to pepper the text with links, they must be relevant. Sometimes linking individual words by themselves doesn't provide a link that is informative, but rather goes to an article on a different concept. Sometimes disambiguation on the titles is necessary, but often as not you can get away with linking to the right concept with a different word. For instance, dialogue is about literary forms; in the context of international politics, you probably want to link to something more like diplomacy. You can make the link 'transparent' to the existing text by using a 'pipe' character: [[diplomacy|dialogue]] -> dialogue, etc. --Brion 21:25 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Actually, I just reverted to the last version that didn't have silly links to pressure and absolute, for example. I'll re-instate the link to international community. (we're talking about Abu Mazen, btw.) Evercat 20:53 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Any why not link to pressure, pressure is just as much of a concept in politics as it is in physics. And why not link to dialogue, if we have an article on dialogue, and a world leader states that dialogue is so important that its the only quote we have from him, it doesnt seem "silly" to link to dialogue. Pizza Puzzle

Or how about the deletion of my link to Muslim, at the page on Jinnah. Not linking to Muslim there is sort of like not linking to Christianity when one has an article on Aquinas. I believe the most recent biography on Jinnah refers to him as one of the 3 most influential Muslims in history; yet, my link is "excessive". Pizza Puzzle

A link to Muslim still exists at that page (Muhammed Ali Jinnah). But some of your other links there were a bit excessive. I don't really think that when you say someone died, this actually requires a link to death, for example. Evercat 21:05 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

And why not? When else are we going to link to death? Many people like to browse the links. Pizza Puzzle
Wikipedia should probably not look like this. :-) Evercat 21:30 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Obviously, opinions vary about when linking is appropriate. Too many of them, and it gets hard to read an article. Too few, and it's hard to determine an article's context within wikipedia. I think of them as "key words"; I usually don't link on common words, especially when the meaning is relatively clear from the context. Uncommon words, I usually link on the first occurrence. I also treat them as a sort of "see also" within the article, like: Robert Fripp was one of the founding members of King Crimson. I dunno, seems like a matter of preference to me. -- Wapcaplet 21:07 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)
I just don't see how linking to laws, judges, and presidents, is an excessive notion when one is writing about laws, judges, presidents. Pizza Puzzle
Well, to use your example of dialogue in the Abu Mazen article... I think putting a link there is distracting and in a way takes the quote out of context. It makes it seem as if he is saying "There is no substitution for the Wikipedia article on dialogue." -- Wapcaplet 21:14 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

There is a Wikipedia:Make Links Relevant debate already. But the discussions there had been inconclusive, and eventually faded out several months ago. --Menchi 21:42 9 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Finished move


Linking to death would be appropriate in an article about the existence of the soul, or life after death, since in that case you would want to know as much as possible about the terms being discussed. Linking to death when talking about somebody who just happened to die is not relevant. -- Nelson 15:00 11 Jun 2003 (UTC)


I'm removing most of the date links and other irrelevant links in the jazz stubs I've been creating. However, linking to non-existent articles is useful. I've been finding out where stubs are needed by following the empty links in the jazz articles. Trontonian

Infrogmation and Hephaestos have reverted most of the articles I edited to the versions with all the dates linked. So in practice Wikipedia administrators seem to believe links irrelevant to the context should be made. Trontonian

Infrogmation has now informed me of the biographical standards, so I'll keep linking the dates of birth and death. Doesn't seem very helpful to me, though. Do we need to know what was happening in the year someone was born? It's unlikely to have any formative influence. Trontonian


Wikidates

Is there as a rule as when to wikify dates and years? For example, on the pages "Parti Québécois" and "Bloc Québécois", only some dates were wikified, while others aren't. To me, the choice seems to be arbitrary. Are only the relatively more important dates wikified? --Menchi 05:23 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)

It's a matter of taste as much as anything else: some people will wikify all dates, some will only wikify important dates, some will wikify very few. Birth and death dates in biographical articles should be wikified (as per the Wikipedia:Manual of Style), but beyond that there's no policy on date wikification, nor any consensus on it, as far as I know. --Camembert
I tend to favor wikifying all dates (and all possible words, for that matter) because a heavily cross-linked encyclopedia is more useful than a bunch of text blobs, it doesn't hurt readability, and it will facilitate various kinds of automated consistency analysis in the future. For instance, imagine being able to check Foo Bar's participation in some meeting against the dates in his biographical info. (Recently I was working over data on early Spanish kings, and found an interesting monograph where one of them was tracked by the grants and charters to monasteries and such - when the dates and locations were plotted, it became clear that he had to have spent most of his life on the road. The names of the witnesses to each charter also showed who traveled with him. Basic date info can be very useful material!) Stan Shebs 14:57 Feb 15, 2003 (UTC)

Is the Wikipedia guideline of only linking to the first reference of something in an article, written down in the style guide or elsewhere? I can't find a reference to it. Mintguy

The Wikipedia:Manual of Style says "Do not link every occurrance of a word; simply linking the first time the word appears will usually be enough" (in the section headed Free Link Style). --Camembert
Thanks for that. I skimmed through that bit, and moved my eyes on swiftly after reading George W. Bush. Mintguy

From Village pump

The article Richard Neustadt has more linked text than plain text, and to me looks like a Las Vegas billboard. Too many dates are wikified. It looks very ugly! Does anyone else agree? -- Viajero 14:33, 3 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Maybe you should create stubs for all the red links, then it will be uniformely blue. :-) andy 15:37, 3 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Oh no! Given the subject, all that red and blue on a white background looks quite patriotic :)     -- Finlay McWalter 15:56, 3 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I always disliked all the years in Wikipedia being linked. Tempshill 23:06, 3 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Wikipedia talk:Make only links relevant to the context is not policy, and it is rude to revert other people's linking. RickK 01:56, 4 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Can you please clarify: does this refer only to links authors put in their articles or also to links others also add to yours? I mean, there are a lot of people who go through articles here doing nothing but adding links. -- Viajero 14:27, 4 Nov 2003 (UTC)
If the Richard Neustadt article said something more about just what he accomplished with all those years in all those jobs, the link density would be a lot lower. He was presumably a historian in the Navy - did he work with Samuel Eliot Morison perhaps? What kind of advice did he give to all those presidents? This article is a good start, but it's completely colorless (figuratively speaking :-) ). Stan 07:28, 4 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I have become gradually converted to more extensive linking. I now link all dates, all proper nouns, and all abstract nouns. I don't link common nouns unless there is some particular reason to do so. Adam

I wish someone would explain to me the rationale behind linking to dates. Personally, I have never clicked on a day, a year, or a decade in the course of reading an article. Is there something wrong with me? ;-) Theoretically, I can imagine that there might be some use for seeing what links to a given date, but if you click on What links here for 1969 for example, you get an undifferentiated list of five hundred article titles. What possible use can this have? One can also search Wikipedia for 1969. What is the difference?
That being said, I find the guidelines suggested here reasonably sensible: just link birth, death, and epoch-defining events. Don't put in links for subsidiary information that doesn't exist, like book titles or geographical dependencies. But when one refers other users to this page, one hears (like above) that the page is "controversial" and "is not policy". Heh?
Even more so than bold and italic, wikilink is a form of emphasis; the way the software is written, a link is not hidden until you pass the mouse over it but rather it jumps right out the page, and I am entirely unconvinced by people who argue that you can simply ignore them. Sorry, you can't; they distract the eye. Hence I believe Wikilinks should be used with discretion, and only for articles related that bear some kind of high-level relation, and certainly not for common English nouns like water or gun. In visual terms, Richard Neustadt looks an embarassingly amateuristic, a travesty of good taste. Are we slaves to the software and stick links everywhere because we can, or do we use our intelligence and pick and choose carefully? -- Viajero 14:27, 4 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I agree with Viajero's rant. When I write, I avoid linking phrases unless I myself see a connection. If it's an article about one country's relation to another, well, then that's the connection! Iraq was invaded by a coalition led by the United States. (If you click on the "What links here" command at the United States page, you'll see every article containing a [[ ]]-style link to the US.
Also, if I'm using jargon as in scientific articles, I think it helps the reader to be able to click on unfamiliar terms like "global warming hypothesis" (a nice, short explanation that they can read in a minute or two) when reading about the politics and economics of the Kyoto Protocol. It would NOT help if Fuzheado deleted the GW hypothesis page, because then the link from the medium sized Kyoto Protocal article would go to the super-large, poorly-organized global warming article. --Uncle Ed 14:45, 4 Nov 2003 (UTC)
While links are primarily aids to the reader, they are also aids to maintenance; for instance, backlinks often find orphaned or misconnected articles (JFK was elected in 1960, not 196), and we use them to find refs that need disambiguation. Also, you can't assume readers know as much as you do, and you can't assume that searching works usefully; while I know about the fine points of Captain in a naval context, I want uncertain readers to look at the article rather than make assumptions, and the blue lighting is a hint. Lots of free links in articles like Richard Neustadt is also a sign that we're still missing necessary articles. BTW, Welfleet is a red link because it's misspelled and mislocated - it should be Wellfleet, Massachusetts (Neustadt had homes on each side of the Atlantic) - yep, links are a good way to detect misspellings... :-) Stan 00:32, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I have to agree with Viajero. This article looks a mess as it stands and most of the links told me nothing I needed to know in order to increase my understanding of the article. And it's far from being the only article I've seen that's in this state. Readability must be the prime aim, surely? And all that coloured and underlined text certainly does not aid readability; quite the opposite. Bmills 11:08, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Stan, In your new article Airmail, I notice you have red links for rocket mail, missile mail, space mail. These are "missing necessary articles" ?!?!?! As for pigeon mail, balloon mail, dirigible mail, and zeppelin mail, why not simply expand them in Airmail? -- Viajero 12:51, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)
And Astrophilately is clearly explained by the sentence in which it occurs. Bmills 13:26, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Heh, this may be hard to believe, but each of those subjects is a recognized collecting specialty, with multiple books in the philatelic literature. One of my rules of thumb is that any subject with a scholarly book dedicated to it will easily justify a 1-2 page article of its own. For instance, the astrophilately article, which I expect will be the smallest of the bunch, still needs to say something about which flights carried what, postmarks on the various space stations, process, the political fights, etc, which would be too long and complicated for the generic airmail article. I don't understand the idea of not making links to topics just because one doesn't know anything about them; one of the things I enjoy about WP is discovering that an unlikely-looking link in an article leads into a whole field of whose existence I was previously unaware. Stan 14:28, 5 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Stan, clearly your Airmail article was not a good example of overlinking. You added those links with deliberation, and it sounds like you will probably write the corresponding articles in due time. That's fine. I enjoy learning new things too; now I know what missile mail is! (And hopefully will learn even more in a short while!)
For me, the issue remains the unreflective linking of all dates and proper nouns, and even common nouns and verbs in an article, irrespective of whether there is any high-level conceptual relation (there are some examples mentioned in the preceding discussion; I can think of more). I realize you consider the latter a "subjective" judgement, but it is no more subjective than the process of deciding what go into an article. The problem is, taken to its logical extreme, linking everything to everything results in articles there is more linked text than plain text, like in Richard Neustadt, which I think is (typo)graphic embarrassment; it is anti-reader. It is linking simply for linking sake, without logical basis, and it makes this enterprise look amateurish.
At this point, we can one of two things:
  1. We can attempt to rationalize linking and expand upon the guidelines listed on this meta page, and try to promote a more conservative approach to linking. Or
  2. We say, ok, link everything to everything. But then let's turn off the colored links on the article pages and use CSS mouseovers to highlight links only when the mouse cursor passes over them. Plain black-on-white text again! Maybe generate a box (like the TOC) at the bottom of the article listing the articles the text is linked to. Yes, I realize displayed links are helpful when composing an article, so we display them in the Preview mode.
Such a scheme would be marginally less writer-friendly but so much more reader-friendly. I expect it would even increase the quality of articles too, as writers would be less hypnotized by the colored links. -- Viajero 19:32, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)



Add my vote to the side of conservative links that pay attention to the context. Excessive linking is just plain hard to read. The arguments for mass-linking does not convince me. If I want to find every reference to a topic (like a date), I can use the search function at the top of the page. We are trying to create an encyclopedia that is attractive and easy to use. Too many links make it harder - just as too few links. Authors and editors have a responsibility to make judgements. Rossami 16:02, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Searching really doesn't work that well; just try finding all the references to 142 AD by searching, and beware, Google searching does not reflect the current state of the database accurately. Stan 17:26, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I just tried this. 142 displays two linked pages; searching Google with 142 AD returns eight hits, of which half spurious, with "142 AD" OR "AD 142" returns just one. Hence, I am not convinced that Google is necessarily worse. As for reflecting the current state of the database, Google seems to spider WP daily, meaning only the most very recent changes don't show up. -- Viajero 18:42, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Try "142" without the AD; articles discussing events of 142 don't add "AD" everywhere. There are lots of other examples where searching doesn't work well, that's just a really obvious one. Also, I don't think Google spiders the whole thing daily, it regularly shows me material I edited out weeks ago. Stan 19:51, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)

As a side-note, I am aggressively deleting redundant links (two or more links to the same place within a single article). Even granting the most liberal of the arguments above, they serve no purpose. They just clutter up the page and make future maintenance much harder. Rossami 16:02, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)

That's the usual rule - only link a first appearance. Stan 17:26, 6 Nov 2003 (UTC)
This should be tempered by the nearness of links. It should be acceptable to link to a topic more than once in the article if the links appear very far apart. Otherwise the user has to go searching through the article to find the link; that is not a desirable result. Jkeiser 22:00, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)

--- There is the principle of serendipity to consider: learning is not all a straight-line experience. The occasional not-quite-relevant link, at the author's discretion, can enhance the reader's experience by bringing them, semi-randomly, to topics they hadn't considered before. Obviously it mustn't get out of hand, but I think a little bit of it is a good thing. Jkeiser 22:00, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Links: Auto-generation?

Perhaps the very nature of semantics versus raw text makes this untenable, but has anybody thought about a system for auto-generation of inter-wiki linking? Many articles miss out of lots of meaningful links because the author's job is multiplied dramatically by having to track down terms that might or might not have pages on them. They could just add a link for everything they think should have a link, and lots of red links will appear. But it would be interesting if all existing pages automatically became active links. Of course, if that were feasible/desirable, the link style would have to change because otherwise too many words would be underlined and bright blue. What about using user-customizable CSS? I'll admit right away I'm a know-nothing, but I was sure that there was a way to allow the user to choose between styles with CSS.

Even if auto-linking as I've suggested it is too complex/absurd/would bring down the wiki, what about a link on every page for a database search for articles related to or words/phrases on the page? Too many results? A way to only return more likely hits? Categorization? Do pages currently have tags on them that associate them with wiki sub-sections or categories? Would this be workable? I would LOVE to be able to click a link on a page that would take me to a sort of local table of contents of related pages and/or a summary of the more general area of knowledge in which a page resides. And that one would link to the next level up, etcetera.

Brent Gulanowski 02:45, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
On your first paragraph, pages manually generated that have a lot of links quickly become unreadable and awful. Tempshill 03:53, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
It would be cool, however, if somehow it could be designed that one could simply write text, and after hitting save page, the system automatically created internal links for any word or phrase in the article for which wikipedia-articles were already written. Kingturtle 05:16, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
No, please not. That would create a lot of useless links, while some useful links would not (because they're to another form of the word or a combination of words). Here is how the start of a randomly chosen page would look under that scheme. I think it's terrible, linking to all kinds of things having nothing to do with the subject:
Gestuno is a constructed sign language, which the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf originally discussed in 1951. In 1973, a committee created and standardized a system of international signs. They tried to choose the most understandable signs from diverse sign languages to make the language easy to learn. The commission published a book with about 1500 signs. -- Anon
Not to mention that you would have to program in a choice between linking individual words or phrases: I would imagine a link to sign language would have been more useful. Phil 12:19, Dec 12, 2003 (UTC)
Well that would not look like that at all if the links were only visible when you rolled over them. It's really not necessary to make links obvious during reading, when the gesture of a mouse is all it takes to make them reveal their nature. And linking to the word "the" is just a bit of over-statement. Anyway the limit is the medium (HTML), not the wiki, so whatever. What you are really saying is what I was concerned about -- auto-generated links without context are not helpful (like separating "sign" and "language"). If pages were grouped categorically in some way (page-to-page category links), auto-linking could be restricted in sensible ways (only n pages away, for example). Brent Gulanowski 03:30, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)
What if there was a way to only create links if the linked page references back to the current one? (if that makes any sense)--sciyoshi 03:59, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

Enciclopedia Libre has that option button. It may be abused. Maybe we should ask our Spanish ambassador how they're dealing w/ that. I bet it leads to a kinda vandalism as well. --Menchi (Talk)â 09:10, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Linking requires human intelligence, and there's no way around that. It's not just about finding words to highlight, it's also about determining whether further information on a subject is desired in context. Not every occurrence of the word bed needs to be highlighted, but if we go into some detail as to what kind of bed a person used, we may well want to put a link on that word. Overlinking makes articles hard to read, distracts from the content and makes us look silly.—Eloquence 09:23, Dec 12, 2003 (UTC)

I agree, linking is best done by wikipedians, not bots or scripts. —Noldoaran (Talk) 23:24, Dec 13, 2003 (UTC)

See also Wikipedia talk:Make only links relevant to the context. --Menchi (Talk)â 09:39, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Most browsers has a option for displaying underlines on links or not. Removing underlines makes pages with to many links much more readable. BL 12:47, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Since the general concensus here already is to overlink (something I have argued against), the most obvious solution would be to simply LINK EVERYTHING -- automatically or otherwise -- and switch off underlining and colored links. Make a link only visible when the mouse passes over (:hover in CSS) Would be an elegant solution to overlinking and improve readability of the pages. -- Viajero 21:53, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
I don't really agree that it's elegant (other than visually). The trouble is that if everything is a link, then the author no longer has a way to draw the reader's attention to the links that are useful. So you'd have to let the author put in links that would be underlined and coloured. But then most current links would be put back in, so we'd be back where we started.
So, if there's an over-linking problem, I think it would be more sensible to identify pages that are over-linked to, and cut some of the links. This could probably be automated. For example, I personally don't see the point of linking to years, and certainly not to full dates such as December 12 2003. The trick would be to get a consensus, though, and that's another debate. Onebyone 22:19, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Over the (short) time I've been here, I've definitely become more conservative in my linking. But I still think linking all dates is the way to go, if only to ensure that the user's display preference (mm.dd or dd.mm) kicks in. I don't care about color or colour, but seeing dates the wrong way round upsets me. Hjr 23:09, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Good lord, I didn't know you could do that. Isn't technology marvellous? OK, so with that plus what Angela says below, now I see the point of linking dates. Onebyone 02:48, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Auto-linking is going to have a hard time knowing to link to USS Philadelphia (C-4) and not USS Philadelphia (C-4), which is rather a different set of things! Fortunately or unfortunately :-), linking has to rely on the taste and judgment of editors, just as does the article-writing itself. I think people tend to link differently based on their mental model of the reader. An article about ships, for instance, will have lots of terms familiar to me, so I don't need the links, but a random reader will have no idea what is meant by topgallant or pink; the links are for them, not me or other knowledgeable Wikipedians. Stan 22:46, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
In my day job I work on a limited-domain project where we use automatic linking almost exclusively. The case you give is actually not that difficult; the linker simply has a preference for longer links over shorter ones. However generally I find auto-linking to be a big pain. Even English's limited set of grammatical variations have to be special-cased right and left, and context is much harder to deal with. It's bad enough that it can't tell whether "structure" refers to buildings or geology out of a thousand or so topic-limited articles; with tens or hundreds of thousands of titles and an everything-under-the-sun domain, it's not going to do a good job.
Thank you for this example, it illustrates the horribleness of the autolinking idea. Just because we have the technology to do something doesn't mean we should do it. By the way, 99.9% of users out there don't know how to change the look of the underlines in their browser and 99% of the remainder won't ever bother. But the real reason it's horrible is that if everything is a link then nothing is a link and editors won't actually be able to recommend other articles of interest anymore. 66.153.56.194 18:54, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)
We took the auto-wikification button out after phase 2, and I don't recall any complaints at the time. --Brion 03:50, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)
As said, there must be a way for the editor to point out which link is useful. I see the point of people who want auto-linking though. It's great for looking up things you don't know about. But it's ugly as hell.
A possible solution would be to show the autogenerated links as plain black text, without underlining, and change them to visible link on hover. Zocky 17:34, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)
I don't like over linking but I make an exception for dates, which should all be linked. It makes the date pages much more useful if you can click "what links here" and see a list of pages containing events for that date. Angela. 23:16, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I agree with aspects of all of the arguments against -- if you consider the suggestion only at face value and in its most naive implementation. But why assume that? For every process there is a bad and a good algorithm. There are three arguments against uninhibited linking:

  1. aesthetically unpleasing or distracting
  2. entirely stupid and/or irrelevant links
  3. taking away the author's control

The answer to 1 is stated above, except that the wiki has settled on a style, ugly as it is.

2 requires a meta-data addition to the wiki: some kind of explicit categorization of pages. I think contributor brains would be better applied to that problem than the tedious construction of individual links. If a page belongs to ten categories, each with a hundred pages, then there are a thousand potential pages to link to -- all others would be ignored. If the categories are more sophisticated (with specializations), you can limit the choice further. But this seems a distinct topic to link relevance: it is a question of how to organize pages by topic. I'm in favour of a set-based style of categorization. If done well it could be very helpful. I contrast this against a purely hierarchical approach. (You could call it hierarchical but with nodes having multiple parents, but this leaves out setting boundaries, as a set-based approach would include by default.)

3 I don't really understand, given the collaborative nature of the wiki. -- Brent