[Wikipedia-l] Redirects to nonexistent pages

Toby Bartels toby+wikipedia-l at math.ucr.edu
Tue Aug 13 05:35:34 UTC 2002

Here is an idea that I've had in mind for a while,
and expressed parts of before, but never so completely.
It is now an official feature request:
I copy here the text of that request (slightly recontextualised):

There are several redirects to nonexistent pages, and these are 
worse than useless. If [[A]] redirects to [[B]], [[B]] doesn't 
exist, and [[C]] has a link to [[A]], then it appears that an article 
has been written, causing readers to waste their time following 
the link and causing writers to pass up the chance to write a new 
article. Furthermore, [[A]] doesn't appear on the Mostwanted 

However, there is some sense in these redirects. If there are 
several possible names for an article, or even if there is only one 
name that best fits our conventions but other possibilities that are 
well known to be common mistakes, or common variations that 
might appear in the text of an article, then it's nice if the redirect 
from [[A]] to [[B]] is there, even if [[B]] isn't written, in order 
to anticipate [[B]]'s arrival. Unfortunately, this really doesn't 
work in light of the previous paragraph. 

Here is how we fix that problem, and make redirects to 
nonexistent pages harmless (or better). If as before, [[A]] 
redirects to [[B]], [[B]] doesn't exist, and [[C]] links to [[A]], 
then this link shall be rendered in [[C]] using the style for 
nonexistent pages. Furthermore, the URL for that link shan't 
have &noredirect in it, so that people that click on the link will be 
editing [[B]], which is probably what they want. However, since 
this may be surprising, there shall be a big notice warning people 
that this is happening, along with a link to the &noredirect URL, 
so that they can edit [[A]] itself if they think that the redirect is 
wrong. (This big notice could be along the lines of the big notice 
warning people when they're editing an old version of an article.) 

As for the Mostwanted list, we will get an additional bonus 
feature. If [[A]] redirects to [[B]] and [[B]] doesn't exist, then 
any link to [[A]] *or* [[B]] shall be added to the Mostwanted 
count for [[B]]. [[A]] itself still won't show up on Mostwanted. 
This is what makes the idea not only a convenience but actually a 
positive good. If [[A]] and [[B]] are both names for the same 
thing, then they *should* combine in Mostwanted, to get a more 
accurate idea of what articles are really most wanted. 

Of course, if you make [[A]] redirect to [[B]], then it's best to 
write [[B]] as well, but sometimes people don't have the time or 
the knowledge for it at the moment. 

I'll give you an example from real life. While I was 
disambiguating [[Corn]] a while back, I found myself going 
through a lot of CIA pages on various countries' economies, and I 
noticed that there were at least 3 versions of [[Soybean]] (that 
plus [[Soy]] and [[Soya]]), none of which existed. Now, I could 
have changed these all to have the same name, but I didn't want 
to start a search through articles for "soy" when I was already 
busy with "corn". Also, they're all fairly common names, and they 
*should* be redirects in the end. So I put them all (plus [[Soya 
bean]] just in case) on my watchlist. By and by, Vicki (IIRC) 
created one of the articles (writing what I never could have), and 
then I made the rest redirects. But it would have been easier if I 
could have made the redirects right away and been done with it. 
Furthermore, the article might well have been written sooner, 
since Vicki only wrote it because she found it on Mostwanted. It 
should have been one of the top 10 most wanted articles, but 
because the wants were distributed among several names, even 
the top version was down the list a bit.

-- Toby Bartels
   <toby+wikipedia-l at math.ucr.edu>

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