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By Tom (LT)

Hello again! Like a well functioning library, Wikipedia operates smoothly and effectively not just because of what knowledge is stored, but because of how it is accessed, and how easy it is for interested readers to access it. Redirects are one part of the way that this happens. Redirects on Wikipedia outnumber articles by 3:2. Here we interview a group of passionate editors at WikiProject Redirect.

  1. What motivated you to become involved with WikiProject Redirect?
    • Paine Ellsworth: Joined in January 2012 because I had been working for more than three years on redirects, their categorization, their rcat templates, template documentation and indexes. So becoming involved with the WikiProject seemed like the right and natural thing to do.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: Unlike Paine Ellsworth, I have never joined WikiProject Redirect (nor any WikiProject for that matter) – I am just participating in WikiProject discussions relating to matters my editing is focused on. Since I became relatively active in wikignoming around redirects, I started to participate in the respective discussions, as well as starting discussions myself, for obvious reasons.
    • BD2412: About fifteen years ago Wikipedia had a project to make sure that we were not missing any topics covered by other major encyclopedias of the day. It very quickly became apparent that many of the redlinks in that project merely existed under other article names on Wikipedia, which led to my interest in a variety of common kinds of redirects reflected in these other usages. This made me particularly interested in sortname redirects, since encyclopedias traditionally have used last-name-first listing. Redirects also aid with disambiguation, since you might not discover that your new article on "Geronimo Z. Blogenspeil" is potentially ambiguous until you try to make the redirect from "Geronimo Blogenspeil" and discover that it is already pointing to a "Geronimo Q. Blogenspeil".
    • jp×g: Well, I don't participate in WikiProjects a whole lot, but where else are you going to edit a widely used template, or propose a recategorization sweep entailing several thousand edits? You need to figure out if it's a good idea first, and ideally you want to do so in a place where the people responding are familiar with how the system works.
  2. Why have a WikiProject on redirects? What are the benefits to the encyclopedia of the focus on redirects?
    • Paine Ellsworth: As with other WikiProjects, working together with other like-minded editors means much more efficient and effective improvements can be made to the system of redirect maintenance and categorization. Benefits to Wikipedia are behind-the-scenes, many and varied. An example would be to determine which redirects can be used in a DVD printed version of parts of the encyclopedia.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: Since, as you mentioned, redirects outnumber articles by a significant margin, there needs to be a place for the coordination of efforts about this part of the project, and given the way at least I am using WikiProjects (as explained in my answer to the previous question), one of those suits this need perfectly. As for the benefits of the "focus on redirects", that focus implies the improvement of redirects and the resolution of related issues, which benefits the encyclopedia because they are used in the first place. I could end my reply here, but since Paine Ellsworth specifically discussed redirect categorisation, a topic within the scope of WikiProject Redirect, in his answer, I might as well add my thoughts on that here as well. As already said, rcats aid the maintenance of redirects by, for instance, pointing out other redirects or templates depending on a redirect in case that one is changed (e. g., {{R avoided double redirect}}, {{R mentioned in hatnote}}), explaining or linking relevant guidelines to avoid redundant discussions (e. g., {{R from alternative language}}, {{R from misspelling}}, {{R from move}}, {{R to decade}}, {{R from emoji}}), showing where additional work may be required (e. g., {{R to article without mention}}, {{R of dubious utility}}, or even {{R with possibilities}}), or just providing a list of redirects of a specific type, which often also helps to find redirects needing discussion or checking for completeness (e. g., {{R from shortcut}}, {{R to project space}}, {{R from ISO 4 abbreviation}}). On the other hand, rcats create additional maintenance that may be coordinated through WikiProject Redirect.
    • BD2412: Redirects are indicators of different ways of organizing and presenting information, and this needs to be done according to well-thought principles to insure that we put the correct information in the hands of readers (or of editors making a link and assuming that it will lead somewhere).
    • Wugapodes Redirects are incredibly useful for readers and editors. For readers, it allows them to navigate the encyclopedia seamlessly using words and terms they understand rather than having to figure out what we decided to title something. For editors, it helps make linking easier when writing articles, and for redirects that can be expanded into articles, it helps make sure they are already linked when created improving their integration into the encyclopedia. These redirects require maintenance though, and broken redirects can be frustrating when articles get moved or rewritten. A WikiProject on redirects helps organize editors and redirects so that we can maintain a seamless reader experience.
    • jp×g: Redirects are crucial to the encyclopedia's usability (both for people typing words into the search box and for people typing wikitext into the edit box). They're also useful for people looking to write content; many redirects point to section headings but could be fleshed out into full articles themselves, and checking inbound links can help you out when doing so. But the fact that there's so damn many of them, created by so many people, means their maintenance and categorization is a project unto itself, so structure and consensus are necessary to build the system effectively. You need somewhere that you can go and ask "what's the deal with this", or say "I'm about to do this and that and the other thing", and have others weigh in. While RfD does build consensus for the fate of individual redirects, it's not really designed to handle broader discussions, so having a specific WikiProject for them is nice.
  3. The WikiProject has millions of redirects that could be potentially influenced by discussions. How do you and your project cope with this enormous scope? What are the roles that automated and semi-automated tools play in conjunction with your project?
    • Paine Ellsworth: Pretty much a gardener myself, as are likely most of the members, I cope by doing all I can to improve redirects with correct rcat templates, category sort keys and so on. The WikiProject is devoted to that and more. Editors work together to maintain redirect pages, because more and more new redirects are created on a daily basis, for example when articles are renamed at Wikipedia:Requested moves. Tools like bots and AWB are at times crucial to redirect maintenance. We've found them to be helpful and suited to many tasks that require that aggregate type of editing.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: Sometimes, I personally feel like processing all the redirects to comply with our standards is an impossible task – and editors creating redirects without categories, including long-standing and experienced ones, aren't quite a help. However, huge sets can indeed be handled by semi-automated tools. Since the majority of my edits has always been focused on redirects, my automated edit statistics(mainspace) give a good picture, especially when it comes to AWB. The stats also show usage of tools only affecting single redirects – tools like WP:TWINKLE and WP:CAPRICORN make redirect creation, categorisation, and nomination for discussion a lot quicker. While not necessarily "automated tools" in your sense, WP:QUARRY and sometimes also WP:PETSCAN are useful tools for finding redirects to categorise.
    • Uanfala: I believe there is huge untapped potential here. Sure, individual editors make clever use of various automated tools, but that can't scale up with the sheer number of redirects out there. For example, we have a centralised clearing house for the discussion of redirects: WP:Redirects for discussion (or RfD: the "D" here genuinely stands for "discussion", not "deletion"). However, decisions there are always taken at the level of individual redirects, whereas redirects really only work as a system. For example, a reader who follows one redirect to an article will likely assume that the same type of redirect will also work for another article, and even outside of reader expectations, the existence of a redirect for one search term will influence the search results for other terms. So, we don't have the tools to work at the level of the entire system: we can't make tweaks to the search engine, and we don't have the procedures for the mass creation or deletion of classes of redirects.
    • BD2412: The important thing, I think, is setting clear rules. Once those exist, the vast majority of redirects will fall into workable groups that can be tended by bots, or in certain specific cases with manual editing tools.
    • Wugapodes There are occasionally wide discussions, but in general redirects are maintained mostly by edit consensus. Redirects are usually made because someone thinks they're useful, and if a particular kind of redirect works well, we make more of them. Similarly, if they cause more problems than they solve, we delete them, eventually to the point where we have guidance on what kinds of redirects work and what kinds don't. Redirect categorization helps because it provides a standard list of redirects that are usually helpful which means new editors can quickly get a sense of guidelines without having to read a bunch of pages of text.
    • jp×g: Very carefully, one hopes. Automated tools are great, and obviously necessary when dealing with vast numbers of pages – but they're tools and not solutions, and we still have to decide what we want to do with them (preferably before doing it).
  4. What do you see as some of the biggest achievements of WikiProject redirects, and are there any contributions you are particularly proud of?
    • Paine Ellsworth: Over the years the WikiProject has overseen improvements of the template indexes, the {{Rcat shell}}, the rcat templates themselves and their documentation pages, as well as proving helpful to any and all editors who have questions on the project's talk page and other similar talk pages such as WT:Redirect. I'm proud of all of these contributions, these achievements that resulted from close collaborations of member and non-member editors.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: Since the WikiProject's scope is inherently wikignomic, I'm not sure if I could mention any "big achievements" since the introduction and following documentation/standardisation of redirect categories and creation of appropriate discussion venues. Over time, a big number of small improvements to the redirect categorisation system ("achievements", if you want) lead to where we are, but there is still room for lots of other small improvements that will eventually add up to the goal of having most of Wikipedia's redirects categorised according to the WikiProject's standards. As far as further standardisation is concerned, I think implementing User:Elli/rcat standardization may present quite a big achievement on our way there.
    • BD2412: I tend to agree with those above that standardization and templating of redirects is a big deal. We have substantially reduced the number of uncategorized redirects, which means it is easier to find and address redirects of specific types.
    • Wugapodes I took over maintenance of the Capricorn user script from Sam Sailor when I made some modifications in 2019. I think the most useful contribution I made in that realm is splitting out the list of redirects. Before, all the redirect categories and all the aliases were hard-coded into the script, but this meant that changes were hard to make and hard to re-use across scripts. I made a page for redirect templates and a page listing alternate names for those templates. Technically, this means that any administrator may update them, not just interface administrators like before, and it also means that other scripts can make use of the list. For example, they helped synchronize the list of templates between Capricorn and Twinkle a few months back because before each program maintained its own list meaning some templates were available in one but not the other. It's a small change, but it makes it a lot easier for others to contribute which is a big improvement in my mind.
    • jp×g: I think everyone's already mentioned the important stuff. As for me personally, I'm no Wugapodes, but I did create Category:Redirects from emoji as a split from Category:Redirects from Unicode characters and populate it with a thousand-and-change pages. Sometimes I even remember to fill out the {{rcat shell}} when I create a redirect nowadays, which feels like a great achievement.
  5. What do you find are the areas of greatest consensus and contention in your WikiProjects' scope?
    • Paine Ellsworth: The greatest consensus has resulted in defining and describing the scope of the WikiProject as found in the first few sentences on the project page. There have been many bones of contention over time, just as we will find whenever good editors get together to resolve an issue. This has only strengthened things like index formats, the transition of the {{This is a redirect}} template to the Rcat shell, redirect shortcuts and so on. As with any good WikiProject, the redirect project has served to stimulate discussion and resolve. It gives editors a notable and gratification-filled mission, and a place to go with both their questions as well as their new ideas to improve this encyclopedia.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: With my only about 1,5 years of experience on the English Wikipedia, having only participated in discussions concerning single rcats or redirects, I can't really mention any groundbreaking discussions related to the WikiProject. One thing I do remember is this no-consensus RFC about categorisation of same-namespace redirects in specific namespaces, which I still consider quite pointless and inefficient, apart from the undisputed inconsistency with other namespace-related rcats. However, I do hope that User:Elli/rcat standardization, which I had already mentioned above, can hugely improve efficiency of this style of categorisation.
  6. What do you see as the greatest area of need for your WikiProject and its articles, and how can a new editor contribute?
    • Paine Ellsworth: Our greatest area of need would be more good editors to either become members or just contribute in their own way to the effort to improve redirects, their sorting and their maintenance. New editors are always welcome because there are always many things to do for the project and for our encyclopedia.
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: "articles" smh. Creation of new (plausible) redirects will always be helpful for the WikiProject, but a good start for actual interaction with it in my opinion would be to categorise redirects whenever you are creating them. You can also look out for redirects needing categorisation, by simply using Special:RandomRedirect or by checking sets of redirects related to topics you are interested in; the latter may also help finding missing redirects. From my experience, good candidates for creation or categorisation (lots of work yet to do) are {{R from long name}} for biographies, {{R from alternative language}} for places and works (or also biographies), {{R from song}} for albums, {{R from alternative scientific name}} for taxa, {{R from domain name}} for companiesscript or {{R to list entry}} for lists. As someone who has been following multiple routes like this over the course of my English Wikipedia career, I have collected a bookmarks folder of over 900 tabs (as well as 300 tabs currently opened in my browser), mostly consisting of uncompleted work with redirects.
    • Uanfala: The vast majority of redirects are created by editors who – as content creators or curators in particular topic areas – are not interested in redirects per se. And that's a good thing: redirects are really everybody's responsibility. If you care about certain articles, then go and see if they're accessible from plausible search terms – there will often be a gap that can be filled by the creation of a redirect or two. And if you're about to create a redirect, then pause for a second to see if that redirect isn't ambiguous with other topics than the one you've had in mind; in that case creating a dab page, or not creating anything at all, will likely be a better option. And if you decide not to create a redirect, then watchlist the title in case somebody else does. You can also try checking the existing redirects to any article: odd things that need attention can sometimes be found this way.
    • BD2412: I would just impress on new editors the usefulness of creating some common sense redirects when a new article is created – if it's a human name, then create redirects from more spelled out versions, variations in punctuation and suffixes, and sort names. If it's a company, think about different ways its corporate status might be represented in print. There really are only a handful of redirect tags that most commonly apply, so apply them.
    • Wugapodes I want to echo what others have said: the best way to help is to create more redirects. If you are making a link and it turns out red, consider making a redirect instead of making a piped link. Not only will it simplify the wiki code, it might be helpful for others searching for or linking articles under that name.
    • jp×g I think it'd probably be good if people made as many good redirects as possible, and as few bad ones as reasonable. And at risk of blatant hypocrisy, I'd also advise categorizing them thoroughly.
  7. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
    • Paine Ellsworth: Just my thanks to editor Tom (LT) and to The Signpost for this opportunity and for what has proven to be an excellent news publication for Wikipedia editors for many, many years!
    • 1234qwer1234qwer4: Thanking you as well, and, though I never had the time to read The Signpost myself, hoping that this interview has convinced some editors to participate in the WikiProject's activities.

That's it for this month. Please feel free to suggest a WikiProject for an interview (or interview a WikiProject yourself!) here

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