Related ArticlesEdit

@CaptainEek, "Wikipedia doesn't use algorithms" is untrue; regular editors often aren't aware of it because we tend to work in the desktop view. When using the mobile version of the site—as more than half our users now do and the proportion is steadily rising—readers are served with algorithmically-generated "you might be interested in…" links whenever they visit an article. (They're not very apparent when viewing the mobile view on a desktop computer, as the links are tucked away below the references, but they're very in-your-face when reading Wikipedia on a phone where the body text is mostly collapsed by default so the lead paragraph, a bunch of collapsed sections, and the algorithmically-generated links are all a reader sees when visiting a page.) The algorithm generates some fairly goofy results—e.g. at the time of writing the suggestions on Jimmy Wales are Bomis, Larry Sanger and Nupedia but not Wikipedia, on Coronavirus it suggests three strains of coronavirus none of which are the strain 99.9% of visitors are going to be searching for, on Black people it serves up a couple of antiquated racial slurs—but the algorithms are definitely there. ‑ Iridescent 10:36, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
I wasn't aware of that, I will look into it.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 12:32, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
If it's any help, the documentation for this particular extension is here. As far as I know, it was imposed by the WMF rather than anyone asking for it; what discussion there was was at Meta:Talk:Requests for comment/Related Pages. ‑ Iridescent 13:58, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
Iridescent, Oh wow, I didn't know that either, thanks for mentioning it... CaptainEek Edits Ho Cap'n! 18:53, 18 November 2020 (UTC)
For what it's worth as a data-point, two of the three "related articles" to my BLP are about people I'd never heard of. They're American lawyers, as am I, but I'm hard-pressed to see what else relates the three of us. (To be fair, the third related article is more sensible, as I'm cited in it a couple of times.) Regards, Newyorkbrad (talk) 21:03, 18 November 2020 (UTC)

Brain dump:

  • Foundation project page: MW:Reading/Web/Projects/Related_pages and Flowtalk MW:Talk:Reading/Web/Projects/Related_pages
  • Software/Technical page: MW:Extension:RelatedArticles
  • I helped the team draft a "feedback only" Enwiki RFC WP:Related_Pages_extension/RfC with responses on the the Talk. The language and style of the RFC is a bit wonky and not very effective. I was trying to get staff comfortable the idea of collaborating with us on an RFC, and I bent over backwards to draft for them whatever they wanted.
  • The team's summary of feedback they received from multiple wikis.
  • The project initially displayed non-free images. Resolved after objections from various editors, and after I cited the Board Of Trustees resolution on non-free materials. The resolution has a banner explicitly prohibiting staff from circumventing, eroding, or ignoring our limitations on non-free content usage. The PageImage feature can now be configured to include or exclude non-free images, depending on how the images are to be used.
  • The project initially had a problem of displaying grossly inappropriate images. If the first image on the page was in a subsection it was often grossly unrepresentative of the article (wrong person or a random place or thing). Largely resolved by restricting PagesImages to only pull from the lead section.
  • The project is both redundant-to and inferior-to our human managed related links. This was said by many community members, from multiple wikis. I don't think the team ever meaningfully addressed this.
  • The software can select grossly inappropriate "related" pages. Our article for Hard disk drive was given a grossly promotional link to the Seagate Technology brand article. Video card currently displays a grossly promotional link to a specific Nvidia brand chipset. This can seriously undermine public perception of our neutrality. I also know of gross BLP violations and appalling political bias, such as giving a living politician a "related" link to a racist party or racist ideology - even when that person is not remotely aligned with the suggested article. Our NOTCENSORED articles can also pop up anywhere, I recall one of our language articles was given profane Related links. The team responded by creating a {{#related:articlename}} keyword we can use to override the software selections, but I rate this as utterly unresolved. The keyword theoretically allows us to fix any given page, but the software generates these links dynamically. Grossly inappropriate RelatedArticles can appear and change on any page at any moment. The problem is intractable, almost no one knows that it's possible to override it, and basically no one even tries to fix these cases. Noteworthy trivia: The #related keyword was used in the Wikimedia Foundation article, to setting related articles to iron law of oligarchy and Tragedy of the commons. There are over a hundred active page-watchers, and those Related Pages remained on the page 9 months before I found and reverted it. Either the Foundation is even more universally despised than I realized, or no one understands the #related keyword enough to revert vandalism that uses it.

Staff have good intentions but I'd say this is yet another case where they built something we never wanted, where they rolled forwards with deployment after ignoring significant feedback that it's not really wanted. Nobody has opened or suggested an RFC to try and get this shut off, but that might be because it's not visible on desktop. The fact that it's mobile-only means the product (and problems with the product) are pretty much invisible to most editors. I'd say that staff frivolously forking features as mobile-only is itself a problem, but that subject leads pretty far off the current topic. Alsee (talk) 03:23, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

  Comment: I don't want to be pedantic but Wikipedia uses algorithms all over the place to do things like convert inches to centimeters. What we are really discussing here is recommendation systems. Mo Billings (talk) 03:44, 19 November 2020 (UTC)

Mo Billings, it may help explain how the discussion became muddled to know that my original topic ( which led to the discussion above, was split off from "related articles, and then subsequently archived ) was Jack Dorsey's referencing algorithms at last week's Senate hearings, as shown below:
:Hi Jimbo Wales, I've been watching a USA Senate testimony of Jack Dorsey and he has said several times that "algorithms" make most of the content and content monitoring and tagging decisions, thus the conversation should focus on algorithms !! What do you think? Justthinking2021 (talk) 17:47, 17 November 2020 (UTC) Also, the senators are not following up on Dorsey's suggestion in this hearing so I'm wondering whether they feel capable of discussing algorithms. And this algorithms tangent that Dorsey suggests strikes me as possibly being a recognition or concern that, as per sci-fi, the "machines are taking over", of course algorithms are not technically "machines". Of course, some would say the person/people who design the algorithms are the "controllers" over what Dorsey is suggesting should be the topic. The whole thing seems unimportant at first glance, but since Dorsey says he thinks it's important, maybe it is? I mean, do algorithms "think"? Do some/they have A.I.? Justthinking2021 (talk) 18:23, 17 November 2020 (UTC)
There definitely appears to be some confusion as to what algorithms are being used in Wikipedia and how useful or confusingly unhelpful they are, not to mention the way in which they came to be in the case Iridescent describes. Justthinking2021.1 (talk) 21:37, 21 November 2020 (UTC)
  • I've wondered about this feature before; it has very much flown under the radar, so I'm glad to see it being discussed here. Reading Alsee's comment above, the situation comes into focus. I'm not actually too concerned about the quality of the links (there will always be exceptions, but I've actually found them pretty relevant most of the time, and I think readers are very used to seeing algorithm-generated suggestions elsewhere so they aren't too thrown off by them here), but the concern that this duplicates the functionality of see also sections very much deserves a larger hearing, and the lack of coordination with the community is troubling.
One thing I'll add: The second sentence of the MediaWiki page is rather concerning: It aims to drive page views by engaging users by directing them to related content. "Driving engagement" is the sort of goal I'd expect to see at somewhere like Facebook, where the whole point is occupying your attention for as long as possible to serve you as many ads as possible. It doesn't fit for a nonprofit, where the end goal always needs to be actually serving readers. Now, I do think the intended purpose is actually tied to that goal—helping people find content they're interested in fits with our mission—but it's still very disappointing to see the rationale expressed in for-profit corporate-speak rather than in terms of our mission, and it makes me concerned about what other decisions that attitude may be driving. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 18:28, 23 November 2020 (UTC)
Most concerning to me is the WMF (yet again) implementing a reader-facing change without community consensus. There's a list of things the community wants and a list of things the community doesn't want, and the WMF seems to regularly work on the latter. Why are resources put towards things like "Related Changes" and not towards clearing Phab tickets, for example? Levivich harass/hound 20:03, 23 November 2020 (UTC)
Yeah, seeing how many fantastic suggestions are being made for the Community Wishlist, and knowing that only a fraction of them will be implemented, while meanwhile resources get dumped on things like this, is fairly depressing.
It'd be one thing if the technical architecture of Wikipedia was in a fairly good place, in which case branching out to try some creative experimental new features would be justifiable, but there are really urgent unmet needs just around the basics. For one example out a gazillion, Jimbo, take a look at T217914, which asks for a simple confirmation dialogue to be shown when you click the logout button. It got overwhelming community support at the village pump but has been open for more than a year. I presume that all it needs is a little developer attention to make it happen, but there doesn't seem to be any since everyone at the WMF seems to be occupied with big flashy initiatives of highly variable merit. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 23:22, 23 November 2020 (UTC)
I'm also surprised at this. As it is, Wikipedia by it's structure as an encyclopedia already drives engagement even for passive users: it is a dynamic click bait. Are the folks at the Foundation so mistrusting how addictive the links we editors create that they need to prime the pump with computer-generated ones? -- llywrch (talk) 20:42, 23 November 2020 (UTC)
Very good point. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 22:12, 29 November 2020 (UTC)

Talk about the value of the statement of principles, how to not lose motivated newcomers and a personal request.Edit

Hello Jimbo,

two days ago I wrote you an email, because I was permanently blocked as a newbie by admins at the german Wikipedia for no reason. You might not hear this for the first time ;-) But with me, it is so. The case is now at our arbitration court for decision. However, I do not have high hopes, because as a newcomer you have little importance.

I have already learned and read a lot about the project and its problems in my short time. Currently, I estimate that some good people leave faster and do not stay long, because they encounter massive problems. These problems include the sometimes very rude and aggressive tone among each other. And that some admins - thank god not all of them - do not behave fairly and block very quickly. This seems to me to be not only a problem of the German Wikipedia.

In a nutshell: The rules you have set up are clearly in danger, and I am witnessing and noticing it first hand! I would like to talk to you about how things could be improved in the future. So that not all motivated people run away from Wikipedia again ;-) I would also like to ask you to mediate in my case or simply to keep an eye on my case being decided fairly and correctly.

My goal is a fair and lasting cooperation, but I don't want to be banned from discussions or to be afraid of a sanction of an admin, because I dare to speak my own opinion.

Therefore, I ask you for a talk and, as far as it is possible for you, for your appropriate support.

Many thanks and greetings from Germany.

Von Savigny

In the spirit of Immanuel Kant: If mutual fairness, the struggle for truth and free opinion is lost, then it is no longer worth being a Wikipedia employee...


I once read that you also like to read German stuff. Therefore, here also in German ;-)

Hallo Jimbo,

ich hatte Dir vor zwei Tagen eine E-Mail geschrieben, da ich als Neuling ohne Grund dauerhaft gesperrt wurde durch Admins bei der deutschen Wikipedia. Vielleicht hören Sie dies nicht zum ersten Mal ;-) Aber bei mir ist es so. Der Fall liegt nun bei unserem Schiedsgericht zur Entscheidung vor. Allerdings mache ich mir keine großen Hoffnungen, da man als Neuling wenig Bedeutung hat.

Ich habe bereits in meiner kurzen Zeit einiges über das Projekt und seine Probleme gelernrt und gelesen. Aktuell schätze ich das so ein, dass einige gute Leute schneller wieder gehen und nicht lange bleiben, da sie auf massive Probleme stoßen. Dazu gehören vorallem auch der teilweise sehr unhöfliche und aggressive Umgangston untereinander. Und das manche Admins - gott sei dank nicht alle - sich nicht fair verhalten und sehr schnell sperren. Das scheint mir nicht nur ein Problem der deutschen Wikipedia zu sein.

Kurzum: Die von dir aufgesetzen Regeln sind in deutlich in Gefahr und ich bin Zeuge davon, am eigenen Leib. Darüber möchte ich mit Dir sprechen. Gerne möchte ich Dich auch bitten, in meinem Fall zu vermitteln oder einfache ein Auge darauf zu haben, dass mein Fall fair und korrekt entschieden wird.

Mein Ziel ist eine faire und dauerhafte Mitarbeit, aber mir dabei nicht den Mund bei Diskussionen verbieten lassen oder Angst vor einer Sanktion eines Admins haben, weil ich mich traue, meine eigene Meinung zu sagen.

Daher bitte ich Dich um ein Gespräch und , soweit es Dir möglich ist, um deine angemessene Unterstützung.

Besten Dank und viele Grüße aus Deutschland.

Von Savigny Von Savigny (talk) 02:40, 27 November 2020 (UTC)

In Anlehnung an Immanuel Kant: Wenn die gegenseitige Fairness, das Ringen um die Wahrheit und die freie Meinung untergeht, dann hat es keinen Wert mehr, Mitarbeiter von Wikipedia zu sein...

The Signpost: 29 November 2020Edit

Hey Jimmy!
The Signpost story (top of this section) came in shortly before deadline, so I didn't have time to check it out with you. But the sources quoted were fine. If there is anything wrong with the story please let us know and blame it on me for rushing it. Also in that case, any comment here or in the story's comment section would also be appreciated, Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:06, 29 November 2020 (UTC)

Seeking topic ban from American politics, post-1932, the easy wayEdit

Almost everything I try to do in this area goes sour quickly, leads to more confusion and controversy. I waste people's time, they waste mine. It's not intentional, but it is disruptive and it does happen. I've tried to quit, but it's hard, I lack self-control and can't resist the temptations of correctable half-truths. I tried asking an admin for intervention (in a somewhat creepy way, no less), but then read a rule saying regular admins don't have that authority, only you can stop me from wasting more people's time without wasting even more people's time through a thorough public hearing. I waive that right, and any others that may hinder your verdict. I would ask for a minimum sentence of four months, but will abide by whatever you think fits the above freely-confessed crimes. Thank you for considering this plea, and once again for creating Wikipedia. InedibleHulk (talk) 08:32, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

Dear IndedibleHulk,

I would consider it a great kindness and it would reflect very well on you if you choose not to edit articles in the area of American policies, post-1932. Out of your respect for the process - and for yourself and your own happiness - I hope that you will use this voluntary ban wisely. My suggestions would be to pick some random area of knowledge that you've always had a bit of curiosity about, but have no strong views on, and read a few books about it. Or - and I haven't checked your edit history so I have no idea what the problem has been - perhaps you could find a prominent and well-written book that takes an opposite view of your own, and read it with a sympathetic mind, to try to understand things as those who disagree with you understand them. (Have no fear, you won't brainwash yourself or anything but you are likely to come out the other end with a more nuanced and thoughtful position!)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:20, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

Read a book? By one of those people?!? Harsh...but fair. I'll give it my best shot! But I'm telling you, part of me is addicted to chaos, a straitjacket and muzzle might still be in order, should my reading comprehension fail. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:58, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

I think you should both come to my Morris dance class. Bring your own hobnails. -Roxy the inedible dog . wooF 14:56, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

That doesn't seem like a winter activity, meybe later, woof anyway! InedibleHulk (talk) 22:58, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

Maybe you were cyber bullied and didn't have the armor to cope with it. Sounds like you just made honest mistakes. That's a lot better than editors who deliberately mislead. Bob K31416 (talk) 15:18, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

Not even close. The speculation and the assumption, anyway. That last fact's dead on. InedibleHulk (talk) 22:58, 30 November 2020 (UTC)

Signpost article/ Founder's Seat / Makeup of the WMF boardEdit

Jimbo, you need to have two votes on the WMF board, not zero. You are the one that can be most trusted for keeping things from going awry. If you've ever made a big mistake, it was in approving that mess of of set By-Laws that the current ones are and which are facilitating the issue described in Signpost. They are basically the Constitution of WMF/Wikipedia. Just imagine if the US had a Constitution that said that congress could unilaterally change the constitution any way any time that they wanted. And that congress could make the rules any way that they want as to the makeup of congress and who gets to be in congress. And one of the rules that they made up is that half of the congressman are appointed by congress, not elected. The by-laws have fundamental problems that prevent self-correction and need repair. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:23, 30 November 2020 (UTC)