Wiki Club Gathering April 5, 2022: Roberta’s Sum-Up on how to make your article findable
This month we looked at findability (for our purposes, synonymous with discoverability). So, you’ve created a new article, or (more likely, and more achievable) you’ve improved or extended an existing one. How are you going to ensure that it is read? How can it be found by potential readers? Other search engines are available, but let’s face it, for most people, “google” is the verb for “search”, and thanks to Google’s algorithms, it’s probably straightforward to find your article from outside Wikipedia, if the correct search terms are used. But what of potential readers who have never heard of your passion (an ingredient, a person, a cooking method) – how will they find what you have written? Wikipedia has several ways to ensure that they do. Let’s take as our examples muktuk, an Arctic delicacy, food writers Sri Owen and Sophie Coe again, and the tea lady, a beloved British job.
Things to bear in mind for findability
- Ensure that variant spellings are represented. Create “redirects”, so if someone types in one transliteration, they will find the article you intend. E.g. muktaaq → muktuk
- As the Manual of Style says: “Linking through hyperlinks is an important feature of Wikipedia. Internal links bind the project together into an interconnected whole. Interwikimedia links bind the project to sister projects such as Wikisource, Wiktionary and Wikipedia in other languages, and external links bind Wikipedia to the World Wide Web.”
- As Goldilocks taught us, not too many links, not too few: with practice you will get it just right.
- You may prefer the How-to guide, which explains how to insert links.
- External links, i.e. to pages outside Wikipedia, are allowed only in very specific circumstances.
- Link from “your” article to the bigger ones. (Sometimes this relationship is referred to as daughter-mother or child-parent.) So the article on muktuk should definitely link to articles on Inuit cuisine, blubber, aboriginal whaling, Mercury in fish, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), HP Sauce, and Marine mammals as food, among many other legitimate links. As it stands, the article has about 450 words in its main text, including ~25 links, which seems proportionate.
- If you are writing about a dish, does the article link to all the ingredients, cooking techniques, originator of the recipe, regional cuisine, etc?
- If you are writing about a person, does it link to their place of education, restaurants they trained at, mentors, etc?
- Consider how best to link from those bigger articles to “your” one. (Scare-quotes because you do not, in any sense, own the articles you work on: WP:OWNERSHIP.) Is it proportionate to link from each of the 25 articles back to muktuk? The decision is made on a case-by-case basis: would it enhance this article in particular?
- For some articles, it would indeed be beneficial to insert muktuk into the main text, e.g. as a salutary example; or you may choose to add it to the “See also” section (we are going to look at the “bottom of the page” components next month); or you may choose not to link at all.
- Another example: it is one thing to write a biographical article about a talented and WP:NOTABLE young food writer, and quote a local newspaper interview in which she says she was influenced by Mrs Beeton, Fanny Craddock, and Nigella Lawson; it would be disproportionate to amend the articles of these three luminaries to link to the up-and-coming chef. The statement that “Ingrid Espelid Hovig is the Julia Child of Norway” has been reliably sourced, and it belongs in her article, but I don’t think I’d add it to the Julia Child article, not unless there was already a suitable section. (There isn’t.)
- Add back-links to undo embedded biases (e.g. sexism and racism). In previous months I gave the example of the biography of Sophie Coe mentioning and linking to her father and husband, but the articles on the men not giving her equivalent status; I’ve fixed that. There are, doubtless, plenty more such egregious imbalances to be discovered and rectified.
- Adapt quotes or other information from one article to another. An example from Sri Owen: “Melissa Clark of the New York Times quotes Paul Levy, chairman emeritus of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, siting Owen’s food scholarship within the tradition of culinary writers who also opened up to the English-speaking world then-novel cuisines like Elizabeth David (Mediterranean cuisine), Jane Grigson (European cooking, and traditional British dishes), Claudia Roden (Middle Eastern food), and Julia Child (classical French cuisine).
- In other words: “[Notable journalist] writing in [notable publication] interviewed [notable expert] associated with [notable institution], who opined that [the subject of the article, Jane Doe] is as significant in her field of [!&*%] as [famous person A] (known for X), [famous person B] (known for Y), and [famous person C] (known for Z).” It is wholly appropriate to go to the bio of Person A and adapt that sentence to add the contextual information that [notable expert] is of the opinion that [Person A] is as significant to [Area X] as Persons B, C, and [crucially for our purposes] Jane Doe are to Areas Y, Z, and previously under-represented Area [!&*%].
- Or to put it another way, it is not only true that Sri Owen is the Elizabeth David of Indonesian cuisine, but Elizabeth David is the Sri Owen of Mediterranean cooking. Looking out for opportunities like this is one way to undo the Euro-centrism baked into the English-language Wikipedia.
Very Wikipedia ways of finding material
Wikipedia has several other mechanisms to make information findable. They work independently of each other; some will appeal to some people’s sense of direction (informational orientation) and some will appeal to others. Humans are infovores: we consume information, and gain satisfaction from learning something new, and thus better understanding the world around us.
If your job as a writer is to make “your” articles findable, then use as many of these mechanisms as you have time to learn, particularly categories, lists, and navigation templates: “Many users prefer to browse Wikipedia through its lists, while others prefer to navigate by category; and lists are more obvious to beginners, who may not discover the category system right away. […] These methods should not be considered in conflict with each other. Rather, they are synergistic, each one complementing the others.”
- The editing guideline about categorisation is here. As a reminder, a guideline “is a generally accepted standard that editors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply”. You may prefer to absorb much the same overview via a page of frequently asked questions about categorisation, or the information page Help:Categories. Remember that categories are not visible by default on mobile screens (tablets and phones).
- Have a look at Wikipedia:Contents. Explore the navigation box at the top, and get a sense of the nested structures that impose order on the chaos of information.
- Our example article Muktuk resides within half a dozen categories, mostly “cuisine of X” types, but also Category: Animal fat products. That cat sits within two more, Category: Animal fats and, logically, Category: Animal products. The former sits within Cooking oils, which is within Food ingredients, which is within Foods. You can think of it as a tree structure, or Russian dolls.
- Add your article to as many categories as seems relevant. Some editors dedicate themselves to tidying up new entries to categories, so if you’ve put an article in Cat:Cooking oils, and they think it ought to be nested more specifically, great, let them get on with it.
- Another example: the tea lady was in four categories: Food services occupations, Gendered occupations, Catering and Tea culture. I added it to Category: NHS hospitals, in an attempt to acknowledge the importance of the role within the culture of the NHS. I couldn’t see a better category, but it isn’t quite right. Sooner or later, an editor who is devoted to improving NHS-related articles will come along and pop it into an even more appropriate category.
- Of course, there has to be a category about Wikipedia categories. If you suffer from insomnia, please feel free to read this.
- Another way to find material is via lists. The Manual of Style says: “Lists are commonly used in Wikipedia to organize information. Lists may be found within the body of a prose article, in appendices such as a “Publications” or “Works” section, or as a stand-alone article.” For example, an article on the Elizabeth David bibliography, the Timeline of food, and the Outline of sustainable agriculture.
- Specific to Wikipedia are Navigation templates, “ a grouping of links used in multiple related articles to facilitate navigation between those articles. Editing of a navigation template is done in a central place, the template page. There are two main varieties of navigation template: navigation boxes (or navboxes), designed to sit at the very bottom of articles, and sidebars, designed to sit at the side of the article text. The two are complementary and either or both may be appropriate in different situations.” You can add “your” article to one or more nav templates.
- If you are editing using Visual Editor (the one that looks like a word processor, not like HTML), this MediaWiki user guide has helpful step-by-step instructions for categories, lists, and navigation templates. It’s much the same at Wikipedia’s Help:VisualEditor.
- Monthly “Women in Red” editathon at the University of Edinburgh (Eventbrite link – Zoom)
- Connected Heritage events for the GLAM sector (Eventbrite link – Zoom)
- Events organised through Wikimedia UK ( list)
- Events organised through Art + Feminism (list )
Things to do
A re-cap of the suggestions above.
- Check the open tasks on the Food and Drink Project. Choose an intriguing article, and check that it is neither over- nor under-linked.
- Check that “your” article is linked to bigger ones.Go to those bigger articles, and decide if it is proportionate to link to “yours” in return.
- Add back-links to undo embedded biases. E.g. check the female biographies – do they link to the men in their lives? And do the men’s articles return the favour?
- Adapt quotes or other information from one article to another, as per the example above, that Elizabeth David is the Sri Owen of Mediterranean food.
- Learn about lists. Look at Food- and drink-related lists. Choose one and improve it.
- Learn about categories. Find a category that you know something about. (Find an article about something you know about, and look for the categories at the bottom of the page.) Are there any omissions? Can you find free-floating articles that really ought to sit within that category? Add them.
- Learn about navigation templates. Find a nav box or a sidebar on a subject you know something about. Are there any omissions? Can you find free-floating articles that really ought to feature in the template? Add them.
- Create redirects for variant spellings and transliterations
- Remember to explain your changes in the edit summary
And keep editing!
Specific examples of articles we could collectively improve:
The place to go for 24/7 help is Wikipedia:Teahouse – as in, a calm environment to relax and learn. “A friendly place where you can ask questions, to get help with using and editing Wikipedia.”
If you can’t remember the link you need, use a search engine. Wikipedia’s behind-the-scenes pages are often difficult to find. Its internal terminology can be obscure.
What next for Wiki Club?
The dates are fixed and ongoing; the subjects are fixed only for the next two months ahead. .
- Tuesday 3 May – The bottom of the page (see also, references, external links, cross-wiki projects, etc.)
- Tuesday 7 June – Picnics and outdoor food?
What would you like to see for future months?
And a re-cap of the basics:
If you are a complete newbie, start with the hour-long video I made for the 2020 Symposium. Some people then like to dive straight in; others prefer to learn more first. Here is a list of short how-to videos; most are 3-5 minutes long.
From Art + Feminism, created to combat systemic inequalities
Userpages and the Sandbox
Basic Rules of Wikipedia editing
Anatomy of a Page
Creating New Articles
Wikipedia Training Video Part 1 – followed by parts 2 & 3
Produced by the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikipedia Adventure – long but light-hearted
Editing Basics (Visual Editor) – this is the option that looks like a regular word processor
How to Create a Wikipedia Account – Tutorial
How to Edit a Wikipedia Article
These are all videos. If you prefer your training in writing, use the titles above to search for an equivalent written how-to.