Wikipedia policy/General discussion

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This page is for discussing issues that are not addressed elsewhere in the Wikipedia policy area.

When providing a list, think about a meaningful sort criteria. Time (of birth, creation) often has some relevance -- it is interesting to trace the life of a composer through the succession of her works, for example. Famousness is a less useful criteria for sorting, it is much too rough. Whatever be the criteria, make it explicit for readers, and people who later want to insert another bullet into your list, e.g. by putting (YEAR) in there.

Sorting by alphabet should only be used as a last resort, when no relevant criteria exists. This ordering is mainly useful for searching (and that only if one knows the beginning of the sort key), a function much more readily accomplished by your computer (e.g. via a browsers "Find" function). Another aspect how Wikipedia differs from paper. --Robbe


I've been supplying articles for a while now, so i thought i'd throw in this and see what people say: A lot of articles are nothing but large listings, see city for example. How about relocating the listings of things to the plurals of the things, so in this case city could contain a definition of what a city is and cities would be a listing of known (and lesser known) cities? The same would work for river...to transfer the listing to rivers should work nicely. So, how about that one? --Anders Törlind

Well, this is what various people have been doing already, it seems (e.g., philosophers). I don't much like this. I personally would prefer the lists to be located on some page that very clearly describes their content. Having both city and cities would be a bit confusing: suppose I want a list of cities and I don't know the Wikipedia convention; then where do I go? So it would be better, as far as I'm concerned, to have city and city listing or listing of cities or something like that. --LMS
The "X listing" sounds good to me. It also minimizes accidental linkage to the list page. I think i'll just go ahead :-) --Anders Törlind

I am a bit doubtful whether these listings are good encyclopedia content. My mind is not made up, but for me it seems to hinge both on the size of the list, and the criteria for listing. Examples: a list of philosophers is probably useful, a list of philosophers who smoked probably not (too specialised); a list of cities is probably not that useful (full set too large); a list of cities with more than 1 million inhabitants probably is (managable set, clear criteria).

For the more specialised needs, searching is better (e.g. "philosopher AND (smok* OR tobacco OR cigar*)" [this syntax does not work on Wikipedia]). Working on better means to search is certainly worth the effort, for example searching just the pages linked (to a certain max depth) from a specific page (say, find "cigar" on any page directly linked from "Philosopher listing"). --Robbe


Whenever you change something on a page because of a request, report, or discussion on the associated /Talk page, be sure to refactor /Talk accordingly.


Q: What is the target audience for the articles? Obviously, one would write an article targeted at 8-year olds on a very different level from one targeted at Ph.D.'s. I have generally tried to aim for the level of college students, who are not necessarily experts in the given field. Is this the appropriate audience? -- Matt Stoker


Q: Many of the pages on letters (A, etc.), languages, and related terminology use conventions such as /a:/ and [N] to indicate pronunciation or phonetic variations. It wasn't until I stumbled across the SAMPA article that I could interpret them correctly. Would it be unreasonable to request that when a specialized symbology or terminology is used, a link pointing to an explanation be provided?


I think we could use software support and a community standard here (let's decide on the standard first, then we can work on the software). Whatever method we use to represent pronunciations, it should be possible to derive IPA from it unambiguously so that real IPA can be used sometime in the future without having to re-edit all the pages. SAMPA is certainly one such system, though I gather some dislike it for being overly complex. The system used by the folks on the sci.lang Usenet group is another. I do understand though that such systems are not simple to understand for novices, so maybe a simplified one would be appropriate. I'm not a linguist, so I don't have an informed opinion on what would be best--but I do have definite opinions on how the data ought to be represented in the Wiki database and on the Web.

With software support, we can have our cake and eat it too--that is, it will be possible for the authors to include an IPA-based pronunciation guide, and have the software translate that into any display form, perhaps based on a user preference, and even create sound clips. -- Lee Daniel Crocker


Many further comments appear at Language/Talk


I searched on World War 2 and found no matches. So on the World War II page, I added World War 2, except in a white font that should be invisible in most people's browsers (because it is on a white background). We could add lists of keywords onto a page in this manner to improve the search engine results. This will work so long as we do not switch to a different method of indexing (which we may have to do).

Actually, for a different method, we could add something like keywords: world war two, Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchil, Pearl Harbor, etc., but make that invisible, and teach the search engine to look only at the keywords in that list. This would make it easy for anyone to add keywords without dealing with meta tags, xml, or other things the average user might not understand.

Strongly disagree. To start with, what happens if I have my window colors set up differently, or if I am working with a text-only program, or copy the contents to some such environment?

OK, but why not just add keywords, visible, to the bottom of every page? So the end of article scheme would be (approximately): "See also" then a line, then "Keywords" followed by a list of keywords (unlinked). Would be useful for a variety of purposes. I think it's worth considering. The only trouble I have with it is that it seems like too much trouble. We've already got thousands of articles that would need keywords, if we started adding them! Ambiguously yours, LMS


Never use the phrase 'of course' in an article. 'Of course' assumes the reader shares the author's context and perspetive and reaches the same obvious and intuitive conclusions. This is not always the case. Do not assume what the reader knows. Additionally, 'of course' is authoritarian and brooks no dissent, and is used when one wants to tell and assert rather than show and explain. This is not the attitude we should aim for in Wikipedia.


This is just wrong. ;-) The reason why this phrase is sometimes useful is that, in order to keep a line of reasoning flowing, one must sometimes say something that is totally uncontroversial. (Yes, some things are totally uncontroversial.) The point of saying them is to explain the context, and one doesn't want to lead the reader to think that the context-setting is at all controversial. So you say "of course" to alert the reader that, yes, indeed, the point you're making just now really is as obvious as it appears to be.

Of course, this can be overused.


The Nirvana page included two entries, one for the band Nirvana and one for the Buddhist concept of nirvana. I created two new pages, one for each entry, and on the Nirvana page linked to both with a brief description of the contents of each page. Because there are countless cases where we will have this problem (Alabama is a state and a band, Paul Simon is a singer and a Senator from Illinois, et cetera ad infinitum) some solution will be necessary. WikiPedians can check out my solution and comment.


One fun way to WikiOff is to hit the RandomPage link, then search whatever page comes up for a topic that hasn't been edited yet. Then you add something for that topic.


Let's post links to PublicDomainResources (for both images and text)!



I would guess that the policy is that the contents is licensed by the GNUFreeDocumentationLicense. Since I think that this information is important I will boldly add that to the HomePage. --LinusTolke

You were very right to do so. I am astonished that no one thought to do so before now. -- Larry Sanger


Q. For the Math articles there is a crying need to have more symbols, like the Greek alphabet, Integral and Summation symbols, infinity, and more, as well as the capability to show graphs, depict figures, and much more. Are there any tools to do this, other than linking to a another web page? RoseParks

A. I can't answer the question definitively but I can say that you can easily link to images elsewhere. So, perhaps as a temporary solution, you can always upload, elsewhere, an image, then link to it from Wikipedia. The wiki programmers must know more, though...

A2. The next release of the wiki software (usemod 0.92) will allow special characters to be used like ∞ for the infinity symbol, Δ for the Delta symbol (the triangle), etc. See the list of standard characters for more information. Most graphical browsers should implement these common symbols. For now, and for other symbols later, an image link to another site will be required. (I'm not sure if image uploading will make it into the next release, but it is a planned feature.) --CliffordAdams (working on the wiki code today)


I think we should discuss references (bibliography but not only) if this going to be an encyclopedia.

  • Human knowledge is still very much in books.
  • To avoid bias it seems important to gather evidence and to acknowledge the sources we have drawn our knowledge upon.----

One Way to Process a Wiki First try...Play


I've noticed that the GNU General Public License is posted. It is under following restriction:

 Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document,
but changing it is not allowed.

Does this restriction actually prevent us from putting the license in a Wikipedia article, since anyone has the power to edit it?

Nope. The GPL does not require us to prevent people from breaking the rules, merely to inform them what they are. If we could post the license as read only, that'd be ideal...

I would have to disagree: policy says that we should license all our articles to the public under GFDL. However, nobody (maybe excluding RMS) has the right to offer the text of the GPL to the public under GFDL. --[[[AxelBoldt]]]

Policy on advertizing? See StateStreetCorporation / State Street Corporation -- perhaps they're a corporate sponsor (heh)?

Heh, yeah, right. No, they're not. We have no corporate sponsors other than Bomis, Inc., (i.e., Jimbo Wales and his minions). The article seems unbiased enough though it seems like propaganda as well, somehow. But as long as it's not taking up other namespace, and its not biased, it shouldn't matter. --LMS, a minion

About all pages that are homes for a large subject area, and consist mostly of links to sub-topics. (Examples include History, Mathematics, Games.) Each of these pages should include a link near the bottom called /lost and found. Yes, it should be a sub-page i think.

In the lost and found page, we should place any pages that are relevant to topic, but are too unimportant in the great scheme of things to be listed individually on the main topic page, but also can not currently be found from the main topic page in any reasonable number of logical hops.

Also, if you want to write a new article, which no-one has linked to yet, and aren't sure how to link it in yourself, put a link in the appropriate lost and found and let someone else figure it out. (This includes articles from the request page. Remember that the request link goes away soon after you write the article!)

The stuff put into lost and found would be a good target for people doing large scale refactoring, trying to make all of the pages here fit together.

Yes, there is the search feature, but even with the enhancements it is going to need as we get bigger, it is sometimes easier to find something from a well designed tree of links than from a search feature.

Ps, feel free to move this discussion somewhere more appropriate, comment, mutilate or delete, i don't feel i own this discussion, the discussion has no long term importance in itself, we just decide then do it or don't. Geronimo Jones



Telling people of valuable books is a fine thing! To give the ISBN number is good. But do we have to introduce all major (and whynot minor?) booksellers? I would like to have commercialization(??) as least as possible in a thing like wikipedia. I propose a page where all booksellers can meet and every bibliography can link to it. booksellers like in ISBN-1-234-5679-00. Copying the number into an search field is not to much work if one really wants to buy that book, isnt it?? What do you think? --StefanRybo I discovered that this is done via automated script as you can see in this example: (ISBN 0-06-091082-8) (you can look at editbox). --StefanRybo

Can this please not be done? I don't think we should be advertising for particular booksellers with every mention of an ISBN. I certainly would prefer to include an ISBN without Wikipedia automagically turning that content into an advertisement. -- Bignose
I just implemented that in the PHP script a few days ago, and was already wondering why the primary link (the ISBN one) goes to a specific bookseller...
It could either link to a just-in-time created special page with the most popular booksellers. Alternatively, the PriceScan link seems OK to me, as it does list many booksellers as well, with best prices and all. So, why not make this the "primary" link, and get rid of the other two? --Magnus Manske

The use of colors
In mathematical texts there is more and more stuff appearing in red. What is this good for? I think red color should be reserved to alert, error / correcting, heavy work-on messages for example. The first color for me to highlight something is blue. But please use not to often because links appear in that color on my browser. Is there a color style guide? I propose to add some Recommendations(??) Pages to wikipedia. Use color sparingly(??).. First draft: /Layout recommendations --StefanRybo


Is there a possiblity of discarding Wikipedia in favour of Nupedia Chalkboard ?
I fear that Wikipedia is meant just as a fun project that is to be utilized by Nupedia and discarded afterwards.
--Kpjas

There is no single entity that can "discard" Wikipedia. Everybody that had a copy ([/tarballs get your own!]) would have to delete/lose it at the same time, an unlikely event. --Robbe

Not until recently.--Kpjas

In my opinion, Wikipedia is a healthy standalone community. If Nupedia wants to use something here as a base for their work, that's great. But Wikipedia is different, with a different culture and, to some extent, different goals. --Jimbo Wales

I agree with Jimbo (of course, because both websites were my ideas :-) ). I do not want to reject entirely the idea of somehow allowing Wikipedia and Nupedia to work together more closely. Right now, there's definitely a problem motivating people to use the Chalkboard. If we were simply to redirect the traffic and contents of Wikipedia to the Chalkboard, I suspect people would leave in droves and/or fork--precisely because the Chalkboard's rules are more restrictive. Kpjas, I suggest (once again) that you simply start using the Chalkboard yourself. Again, I think your participation (even if it means simply porting stuff you wrote for Wikipedia to the Chalkboard) might be the little extra push we need to get the Chalkboard going really well. --LMS


Q. Should there be a guideline on how the line break should be entered in a page? The reason behind this question is mainly related to the diff function of Wikipedia. When you diff two versions of some page, you most likely will see 20 lines of text in the same paragraph with one word change in it. The readers have to search for the change with great effort. Since the web browser is going to format all sentences into one paragraph, there is no advantage to type the paragraphs in one piece. Instead, if each sentence is entered as one line, (just like this paragraph, use edit to see how I typed it), then the diff function will show only the sentence containing the change not the whole long paragraph. Check the diff of this article to see how changes are shown in this approach. I also purposely changed the previous paragraph to demostrate the different results.


Concerning the "no external images" policy (which I am already guilty of violating), should we make an exception for Nupedia (or even all bomis-hosted servers)? At least, until my script works;) --Magnus Manske

Of course! I wasn't even thinking about that. --LMS


Sept 25, 2001: I've written a lengthy proposal on the subject of a WikiProject, which out of courtesy I have not posted here. Interested parties can read the proposal at ManningBartlett/WikiProject


I'm curious if it is permissible to include snippets of code that is licensed under the GPL in Wikipedia. I looked around on the FSF's webpages but I don't see any comments on how compatible the GPL and the GFDL are. I've put some of my own code (which I release to the public domain) in places like quicksort and bubble sort, but for more advanced stuff it would be good to know if I could borrow from, say, the Linux source. --BlckKnght


Chronological listings: I'm about to start work on the Archbishop of Canterbury and editing the seven articles on Nobel Prizes. I wasn't sure whether Archbishops, prize winners etc should be listed in forward or reverse chronological order - either way makes sense to me, but I was wondering whether there was policy or consensus about this. It looks like there isn't consensus at this point - compare the listings of Prime Minister of Australia and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, for example. Before the inconsistencies multiply, it would be a good idea to think about how chronological listings of holders of unique positions, prize winners, etc should be presented. -- Claudine

I would argue that forward chronological order is probably a good idea. If the list is very long, perhaps a few subheadings indicating decades or centuries might be appropriate. --Robert Merkel

Does Wikipedia have any conventions on "inclusive"/"fair"/"nondiscriminatory" language?? I'm new here as of 28 September 2001 and I've already seen this issue several times.

Oh, dear. This is one which comes up from time to time. Political Correctness is a prime area for this. But for what it's worth "inclusive"/"fair"/"nondiscriminatory" tends to be very much in the eye of the beholder. If you tell someone, for example, in Manchester, England that he's English you will probably get a non-reaction; try doing that to a someone who is Scots, Welsh or Cornish and see what kind of interesting reaction you get. Some will mildly rebuke you, others less articulate will probably introduce you to the joys of the British National Health system. The sensible approach is to use common sense otherwise we will end up with articles about personhole covers, waste disposal executives, etc, and similar patent nonsense.sjc


Is there any convention for where to put links on general pages like tree that point to more specific meanings like tree data structure? I don't want to put it at the top, and distract all the students of dendrology. Nor does tree data structure make too much sense as a "see also" section as it doesn't realy have much to do with the subject of tree other than the name. Should I make a "you may be looking for" section? I'm sure this comes up a lot, and I wonder what the best solution is. --BlckKnght