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

MZMcBride z at mzmcbride.com
Sun Jun 6 17:22:34 UTC 2010

Aryeh Gregor wrote:
> My first guess would be that people didn't complain about interwiki
> clutter because they've always been there.  By the time you're
> 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

Not to beat a dead horse, but....

You're simultaneously arguing for evidence-based decisions and explanations,
while also adding to the pile of anecdotal (or simply made-up) logic behind
the decisions ("my first guess..."). And you're doing it as someone with the
ability to gather actual, hard data on interlanguage link usage, which adds
a bit more annoyance.

As far as I'm aware, nobody has properly graphed interlanguage link
occurrence on the English Wikipedia. The data I found querying non-redirects
in the article namespace on the English Wikipedia is available here.[1] As
you can see, 1774000 articles have 0 interlanguage links (53%). Looking at
pages with 5 or fewer interlanguage links, it's 2948039 articles (88%).

You (or perhaps you, by proxy) are pushing this idea that hiding these links
reduced clutter. The reality is that there wasn't much clutter to begin
with, for a few reasons.

There is a direct correlation between article length and the number of
interlanguage links. For example, "Barack Obama" has 169 interlanguage
links, but the article is enormous, so it's not generally noticeable. I
could graph this correlation, but this post is more than enough investment
from me for the day.

The links are placed in the sidebar, which generally has more than enough
room to accommodate these links. The links are completely out of the way,
but still accessible to the user. While there has been some jibber-jabber
about the page layout being "psychologically free," having a few links in
the sidebar that don't overlap anything or get in the way of anything hardly
seems like it's going to cause user claustrophobia.

When looking at the actual data, I don't see a "clutter" argument being very
strong or well supported. There have been proposals put forth to hide any
additional interlanguage links over 5, though in 88% of cases currently,
that will have no impact at all. It may be a valid idea to implement in the
future, though it also introduces a lot of issues about how you would select
the five most prominent links. And, as always, you have to weight the cost
of development time and resources against the benefit of improving a small
percent of pages (12% on the English Wikipedia, likely much less on the
other projects).

The default should be flipped. There is near-universal agreement on this
point at this point, including from Erik Moeller. I expect this will happen
on Monday.

And, for those curious, the article with 243 interlanguage links is "True
Jesus Church".


[1] http://toolserver.org/~mzmcbride/count-langlinks.txt

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