Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to Work with Disambiguation Pages and Redirects


Greetings all! My name is Nathan, and I have the good fortune to be guest-posting today about Disambiguation and Redirect pages on Wikipedia.

Disambiguation Pages, Redirects, and Keeping it Simple

Wikipedia has a lot of articles. I mean a WHOLE lot. And when I say a WHOLE LOT, I really mean that it ha- ...okay, I get it, you get it. There are even algorithms to describe how many there are.

But did you know that each of those articles is supposed to have its own, unique one-of-a-kind identifier? As you might imagine, this leads to some potential overlap. Remember back in 4th grade math class, when you had three Johns? Our intrepid teacher, Ms. Hypatia, came up with a disambiguation solution. We suddenly had Jon B., John J. and John P.

If you were to ask Ms. Hypatia about "John," she would likely prompt you for further input. Did you want B (who also spells his first name differently), J, or P? This is exactly how Wikipedia handles overlapping identifiers, with a Disambiguation page.

I created this guide out of an example article the GSoW team recently worked on:

  • Sharon Hill is a geologist in Pennsylvania, as well as a science writer and speaker, who has constructively contributed to the advancement of scientific skepticism.
  • Sharon Hill is a borough in Pennsylvania, United States with a population around 5,500.

We had a problem. When we went to publish a new biographical article for Hill, the page for “Sharon Hill” already existed, and would auto-redirect users to the “Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania” article. We could (and did) publish under "Sharon A. Hill," but that auto-redirect page had the potential to frustrate a lot of potential seekers.

We needed to change that Redirect into a Disambiguation page.

Step One: Edit the Redirect

If you go to a Redirect page (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAGETITLE) without disabling the “redirect” function, you would see something similar to the figure below:


The "redirect" function has auto-forwarded us to another page. Altering the URL by adding "?redirect=no" prevents this from occurring (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAGETITLE?redirect=no):


Disabling the “redirect” function allows us the option to edit the Redirect page.

Step Two: Create the Disambiguation Page

We create a Disambiguation page with something similar to the following code:


'''Sharon Hill''' may refer to:

* [[Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania]], a borough in [[Delaware County, Pennsylvania|Delaware County]], [[Pennsylvania]], [[United States]].
* [[Sharon A. Hill]], a geologist, science writer and speaker.

{{disambig}}

Obviously, you'd want to replace the above wiki-code with your own example. Saving this page in place of the old Redirect article will present users with a choice, as can be seen on the current Sharon Hill Disambiguation page.

Step Three: Clarify the Article(s)

In order to make it easier for users to identify which “Sharon Hill” they are reading about, and to make it easier for them to

{{about|TOPIC|TOPIC 2|ARTICLE (2)}}

In our case, using the following text...

{{about|Sharon A. Hill, the science writer and geologist|the city in the State of Pennsylvania|Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania}}

...results in:

This page is about Sharon A. Hill, science writer and geologist. For the borough in Pennsylvania, United States, see Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania.

being added to the header of the page. This makes it more obvious to the user which article they're viewing, and gives them the option to select the correct one if they've ended up in the wrong place.

In Conclusion

I hope this example has been helpful. Please keep in mind that not every situation is going to require the same handling. Sometimes Redirect pages will need to be replaced with Disambiguation pages. Sometimes not. You will need to adapt the steps in the above tutorial to meet your own requirements. If you are stuck, don't hesitate to ask another editor for help.

1 comment:

  1. When trying to view a redirect page without following the redirect, you don't have to remember the "?redirect=no" code! You can click on the redirect name where it says "Redirected from", and that has the same effect!

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