On 29 May 2003, Erik Moeller wrote:
> Long articles have several advantages:
> * A topic is kept in context, eliminating the need to write a separate
> intro for each individual article
The context depends on the reader. What is the context
of Chap's views on
Stuff? For someone interested in the life of Chap, the relevant context is
his life, and so they would want that section to be at [[Chap]]. For
someone interested in Stuff, the relevant context is that subject, and so
they would want the section to be at [[Stuff]]. Of course, there should be
mentions of his views in both articles, but to duplicate the whole lot
would cause problems. I think it would be better to have a separate
article on [[Chap's views on Stuff]], and have links to it from both
I would prefer to have
'''Chap''' is ...
== Chap's views on [[Stuff]] ==
Okay, maybe that's an unfair characterisation of
what you said, but I think
that Web-based things should be tailored to the medium, and that means
that information should be arranged in a web-like
structure, not artificially forced into a one-dimensional structure like
It is. Wikipedia articles have more links than any other encyclopedia.
Compare Wikipedia to Encarta, an electronic encyclopedia, and you will
notice that we will have much more cross-references, often to completely
off-topical articles. I think that's a good thing and allows readers to
explore freely (don't get me started about link underlining again,
though). It separates us from Encarta, though, who have obviously done a
great deal of usability research.
The question is, do we want relevant information on one subject to be
grouped together, or do we want to *unnecessarily* use the "hypertext
medium" just for kicks? The latter seems like a gimmicky thing to do, and
reminds me more of a project like Everything2. By doing so, we do not
accomodate but actually encourage short attention spans, with lots of
disjointed small articles. Remember that for each link the reader has to
follow, he needs to develop an idea what that link is about, and whether
he wants to read it, whereas it is much easier to skim a well-structured
text in front of you based on section titles.
(BTW, it may be nice to have a small table of contents auto-generated for
articles with more than 4-5 sections.)
I do believe writing a well structured coherent long article is more
difficult than writing many small ones. I still think we should try.
It would be good to have a way to save related
articles together, but what is related depends on the reader, again. A
reader interested in Chap would want [[Chap]], [[Chap's views on Stuff]],
and [[Chap's views on Things]] saved together, whereas a reader interested
in Stuff would want [[Stuff]], [[Chap's views on Stuff]], and [[Guy's
views on Stuff]] all saved together.
There will always be differences in what is perceived as belonging
together. However, where coherence is reasonably clear, it should be
reflected by having relevant information merged into a single document.
For example, I left some fictional characters alone because these appeared
in several different fictional realms. So it would not have been useful to
have them just in one article, because that would complicate linkability,
saving etc. -- but for those characters which just appear in one realm,
having them in the article about that realm is preferable.
> * We do not require the reader to click around
unnecessarily, which can
> confusing to many people
I'm not sure I follow this argument. Isn't
that what people do on the Web
all the time?
One of the key problems of empirical web design is link predictability. If
the reader does not know what to expect, he will get confused, frustrated
and stop navigating. Obviously, the smaller your information pieces are,
the more frequently the reader will have to find the proper link to
navigate to the next one, and the more likely it is that he will get
frustrated in the process. With too long documents, you risk having too
much uninteresting information in the same file, making the text harder to
skim etc. So finding the right balance is important. With lots of highly
interlinked short articles, you get a structure like Everything2, which
only appeals to very strange persons.
I don't think so. Merging small articles into big
ones increases the
number of redirects floating around.
Replacing all redirects to FOO with redirects to BAR is a job for a
machine. Replacing all links to FOO with links to BAR is a job for a
human, because you don't know in which verbal context these links appear.
> * A short average article length does not reflect
well on our article
> count, which is one of the key instruments used for size comparisons
It makes the count bigger, which is a *good* thing. :)
No, it's not a good thing, if the next time someone does a random page
sample for a review, they get 10 one-pargraph articles about fictional
characters. This makes us look unprofessional.
And the more such articles we have, the more difficult it becomes to
enforce standards, to systematically copyedit articles about certain
subjects etc. -- like Everything2, the whole database becomes increasingly
messsy and unappealing to deal with. It's like the subpages mess we just
As for comparisons,
if you check other popular encyclopaedias, you'll find that many of them
have articles a lot shorter than 20 Kb.
Certainly not about "Gnipper the dog". The point is: If you actually check
out these articles, you notice that they are about subjects that can quite
plausibly grow into reasonably long articles -- an author, a politician, a
company spokesperson; a mechanical device, a philosophical concept, a
published work .. We currently have plenty of small articles that can
never be anything but small articles because their subjects are so
> Hard to edit:
> One of the features on my personal wishlist is the ability to edit an
> individual article section.
Doesn't that give the reader more unnecessary
things to click on, and
wouldn't that be confusing to many people? ;)
Not for the reader, but for the editor. Editors can be expected to click
more, but even for them, it should be a user preference to avoid
The whole idea of linking to individual sections is
just so evil that I'm
going to have to write another whole e-mail on this subject...
Actually, I tend to agree with you on that one.
The solution *is* structure. We agree on that. I say
use the natural
web-like structure of the Web; you say force things into a traditional
No, I don't say that. I say use both: traditional structural elements and
associative web structure, to allow getting relevant coherent information
quickly. Wikipedia is not a hypertext experiment.
I don't know how much we disagree in practice. As long as you don't move
Chip 'n Dale and all their fictional supporting characters back to their
individual articles, I'm happy.