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

Andreas Kolbe jayen466 at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 6 17:19:30 UTC 2010

One thing that is undoubtedly good is that users now have the choice of displaying lists like the interwiki links, or not. The system seems to do a reasonable job remembering a user's preferences. Someone who prefers the interwiki links hidden can get them off his screen with a click. 

But the interwiki links should be there when a user first comes to the site. In particular as the single word "Languages" on the left does not make it immediately apparent that you can view an Arabic, Spanish or Hebrew article on the same topic you are currently looking up. This is a big part of what Wikipedia's mission is about.

People in Europe and Asia are more likely to speak several WP languages than people in the US or UK. I would bet money that non-native English speakers, who represent a very substantial proportion of en:WP readers, make greater use of the interwiki links in en:WP than native speakers.


--- On Sun, 6/6/10, Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com> wrote:

> From: Aryeh Gregor <Simetrical+wikilist at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] hiding interlanguage links by default is a Bad Idea, part 2
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Date: Sunday, 6 June, 2010, 16:40
> On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM, David
> Levy <lifeisunfair at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > At the English Wikipedia, this is not so.  If we had
> a bike shed,
> > there would be daily complaints about its color.
> I should say that *almost no* users complain about small
> things.  A
> tiny group of committed users will complain about small
> things, but
> they're not the targets of the Usability Initiative, so
> their
> complaints are not relevant here, *except* insofar as they
> provide
> reasoning or evidence about what most users think.  By
> contrast,
> complaints from occasional users are useful in usability
> discussions
> even if the users provide no reasoning, because the
> complaints are
> ipso facto evidence of a problem.  (But if we have
> only anecdotal
> evidence of complaints from occasional users, of course,
> that needs to
> be treated with the same caution as any anecdotal
> evidence.)
> > I've encountered many complaints about clutter at the
> English
> > Wikipedia (pertaining to articles, our main page and
> other pages), but
> > not one complaint that the interwiki links caused
> clutter.
> My first guess would be that people didn't complain about
> interwiki
> links' clutter because they've always been there.  By
> the time you're
> comfortable enough with the site to complain, you just
> won't notice
> them.  I'd guess that the complaints you see are when
> things *change*.
>  Experienced users are prone to complain when things
> change, because
> they've gotten used to how things are.  If we leave
> off the links for
> a year, then turn them back on, I predict we'd get
> complaints about
> clutter.
> > However, assuming that the interwiki links benefit a
> relatively small
> > percentage of users (still a non-negligible number in
> absolute terms),
> > I've yet to see evidence that displaying them by
> default is
> > problematic.  Like David Gerard, I desire access to
> the data behind
> > this decision.
> Then say exactly what evidence you desire.  What test
> would you
> suggest to see whether hiding the links helped or harmed
> things?
> On Sat, Jun 5, 2010 at 1:30 AM, David Levy <lifeisunfair at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Said data indicated only that the interwiki links were
> used relatively
> > infrequently.  Apparently, there is absolutely no
> data suggesting that
> > the full list's display posed a problem.  Rather,
> this is a hunch
> > based upon the application of a general design
> principle whose
> > relevance has not been established.
> >
> > Aryeh Gregor: You cited the importance of data (and
> the systematic
> > analysis thereof).  In light of this explanation,
> what is your opinion
> > now?
> Data is important.  It's also not always possible to
> gather.  When
> multiple things are competing for attention, you can make
> one or the
> other more prominent, and it will get correspondingly more
> clicks.
> But it's up to your judgment to assess whether that's a
> good thing or
> a bad thing: are more people finding what they actually
> want, or are
> people being distracted from what they actually want? 
> If we have more
> clicks on interlanguage links and less on other interface
> elements, is
> that good or bad?  If we wanted to maximize clicks on
> interlanguage
> links, we could always put them above the article text, so
> you have to
> scroll through them to get to the article text . . . but
> that's
> obviously ridiculous.
> As Greg said above, data is important, but it can be hard
> to apply
> correctly.  Sometimes you really have to use
> judgment.  But we could
> still use more data -- for instance, why do people usually
> click
> interlanguage links?  Do they usually understand the
> language they're
> reading the article in, or not?  We could have a
> little
> multiple-choice question that pops up a small percentage of
> the time
> when people click on an interlanguage link.
> My suspicion is that a long list is not ideal.  Yes,
> people will see
> it for what it is and they'll be able to find their
> language easily
> enough if they look.  But it's distracting, and it's
> not obvious
> without (in some cases) a lot of scrolling whether there's
> anything
> below it.  If we could use some heuristic to pick a
> few languages to
> display, with a prominent "More" link at the bottom, I
> suspect that
> would be superior.
> But first we should gather data on click rates for the list
> fully
> expanded and unexpanded.  Per-page click rates are
> important here --
> many articles have no interlanguage links, so will
> obviously pull down
> the average click rate despite being unaffected by the
> change.  What's
> the trend like as articles have more interlanguage
> links?  How many
> more interlanguage clicks are there for articles in twenty
> languages
> as opposed to five?  Can we plot that?  For each
> wiki separately, for
> preference?
> All this data gathering takes manpower to do, of
> course.  Maybe the
> usability team doesn't have the manpower.  If so, does
> anyone
> qualified volunteer?  If not, we have to make
> decisions without data
> -- and that doesn't automatically mean "keep the status
> quo", nor
> "change it back if people complain loudly".  It means
> someone who
> happens to be in charge of making the decision needs to
> make a
> judgment call, based on all the evidence they have
> available.
> (By the way, I'm not an employee of Wikimedia and am
> sometimes not at
> all happy with how the usability team operates.  I
> happen to think
> that they have a good point in this case, though,
> irrespective of how
> they made or enforced the decision.)
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