[Foundation-l] hiding interlanguage links by default is a Bad Idea, part 2

Aryeh Gregor Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com
Fri Jun 4 19:39:31 UTC 2010

On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 1:51 PM, Mark Williamson <node.ue at gmail.com> wrote:
> Aryeh, imagine someone links you to an article on physics at
> ka.wikipedia.

Why would anyone link me to an article on ka.wikipedia?  That's not a
reasonable thing to imagine.  I don't think I know anyone who speaks
Georgian, and if I do, they wouldn't have any reason to link me to an
article in Georgian.  If they did, I'd probably use Google Translate.

There are obviously going to be some cases where users wind up at a
wiki they don't understand, for some strange reason.  In such a case,
having a pre-expanded language list is obviously useful.  Even if they
could figure out what "other languages" means, it's much harder to
spot when collapsed.  The question is whether the significant utility
to this small group outweighs the slight disutility to a much larger

On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 2:58 PM, David Levy <lifeisunfair at gmail.com> wrote:
> Furthermore, I don't recall _ever_ encountering a complaint about this
> so-called "clutter."  But I certainly have seen numerous complaints
> about the interwiki links' sudden removal (as many have perceived the
> change).

Of course.  Users don't explicitly complain about small things.  They
especially don't complain about things like clutter, because the
negative effect that has is barely perceptible -- extra effort
required to find things.  But if you take away a feature that's
important to a small number of users, or that's well established and
people are used to it, you'll get lots of complaints from a tiny
minority of users.  Basing development decisions on who complains the
loudest is what results in software packed with tons of useless and
confusing features and lousy UI.  Like most open-source software,
including MediaWiki.  Good design requires systematic analysis,
ignoring user complaints if the evidence indicates they're not

Now, mind you, I don't necessary support getting rid of the
interlanguage links.  I'm mostly objecting to the reasoning being
brought forward for that point, which seems to be mostly:

* Some unknown number of users might somehow end up at a wiki they
don't understand and not be able to find the wiki they really want.
Maybe.  Except we have no data to suggest that this happens with
non-negligible frequency.  The evidence apparently indicates that few
people use the interlanguage links.
* Lots of people have complained, therefore it must be a bad change.
* Interface clutter isn't important anyway.

The last two arguments are completely wrongheaded.  The first might or
might not have merit -- but no one has even attempted to propose what
evidence we could gather to check it (I think).  Most of the people
making the first argument seem to assume without question that there
*must* be a lot of people using the interlanguage links for this, or
at least a significant number.  This is not the way to conduct an
informed discussion.

In the absence of further data, the only real argument I saw for
restoring the interlanguage links by default is to show how
international Wikipedia is and raise awareness about how many other
languages are supported.  In this case they aren't actually meant to
be clicked on, so a low click rate isn't a problem.  They're more of
an advertisement.  This is a fairly reasonable argument -- the huge
size of the language list is a plus, not a minus, from this
perspective.  I don't know if it outweighs concerns about clutter,
though.  Maybe.

More information about the wikimedia-l mailing list