Wikipedia talk:Do not use subpages/Archive 1

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NOTE: This discussion was previously located at Wikipedia talk:Subpages pros and cons

Can we restrict subpage discussion to this location from now on? I think there are 10 different pages on this topic floating around. - MB

I agree. Though I think the other pages should be refactored, and any real arguements they contain should be moved here. Perhaps I'll have time to start on that tomorow. --MRC

  • Having a "magical" character in the title is unpleasant, creates "parent" pages that shouldn't exist, and therefore prevents some article titles from being what they should: for instance [[8 1/2]], [[Gnu/Linux]], etc. (Who has said this? This doesn't make any sense to me. --LMS)
    • I (KQ) said that--well actually, just the part after "unpleasant,"--What I mean is that 8 1/2 is a movie by Federico Fellini, but if I link to it like that it thinks I'm on a subpage of [[8 1]], and that the subpage is called [[2]]. The same things happen with [[Face/Off]] and at least 2 other entries I created, though I'd be hard pressed to tell you which they were (I've been around for the last 7 months). --Koyaanis Qatsi
    • For the record, it was the part before "unpleasant" that was the part I thought didn't make any sense.  :-) --LMS
      • It was I who wrote that, in an attempt to be fair to the issue, even though I'm pro subpages. The unpleasantness is aesthetic: no other character plays a special role in the title except slash. It's potentially unclear to newbies, and it's a "magical", ad-hoc solution (why slash? why not the semicolon for instance?) that offends my aesthetic sensibility (I do think, however, that advantages of subpages greatly outweigh the drawbacks) --AV
        • If I understand your reaction correctly, I'd say its unpleasantness is almost wholly due to the fact that, in the context of a wiki, the slash has no clear meaning. It's an aesthetic problem rooted in semantics.  :-) --LMS
          • I think that it's separate from the semantic problem. It's not that the slash has unclear meaning (that's not a problem of the slash, that's the problem of the subpage concept), it's that it's the only character with an extra-textual meaning. It wields special powers: add a semicolon in the title, and nothing much happens; add a slash, and all kind of crazy stuff is suddenly going on ;) why a slash? why only a slash? There's arbitrariness in that that's bugging me. --AV
    • Oh. Well, then I can't help you. <g> "Unpleasant" is too imprecise for me to know exactly what the author meant--I think it was along the same lines as what I added, but I'm not sure. --KQ

  • Can be used to create standardised mini-schemes facilitating organised treatment of the same kind of relationship; for a trivial but by no means exhaustive example, consider "X/Childhood" in a biographical article versus competing schemes "Childhood of X" and "X's Childhood" creating confusion and unnecessary complication.
    • I've removed this from the list because it just doesn't make any clear sense. Put differently, I could just as easily have made it a "contra subpages" point. There are going to be competing schemes with or without subpages. E.g., we can just as easily imagine "X/Childhood" as "X/Upbringing" and "X/Childhood and Youth," etc. Besides, we shouldn't make this decision based on what can be easily standardized: we aren't standardizing yet and nothing about the software or our habits militates against some future standardization. --LMS


      • I disagree and believe it does make clear sense. Put simply, pick any 100 personalities on whom we'll have large biographical articles. In absence of any standartization (and I'm not saying these things can't be standartised, see below) and in absence of subpages, perhaps half of them will have "Childhood of X" articles and the other half "X's Childhood", or some other proportion perhaps. I think we can agree that that would be undesirable? With subpages, this particular confusion does not arise: "X/Childhood" it will be, "Childhood/X" is clearly absurd and will not be used. Now it's true that someone may use "X/Childhood and Youth" or whatever, but that's not an argument against subpages: the very same confusion may arise without subpages, with "Childhood and Youth of X", "Upbringing of X", etc. etc.
      • To sum up: whenever a page's title needs to transmit the idea of "the aspect B of A", where A is clearly the primary object and B is clearly its aspect, as in X and their Childhood, subpage-based naming allows us to unambiguously present the relationship without leading to likely confusion between different schemes in the English language, such as "B of A", "A's B", etc.
      • Now, in absence of subpages these things may of course be standartised. I'm not saying they can't be, but it's additional work for something we already have for free with subpages (which of course has other advantages in my opinion). And this standartization may prove difficult because of the multitude of different kinds of relationships we'll have to standartize on. Suppose we agree that "X's Childhood" is better than "Childhood of X"; but what about when X is country -- "Geography of X" does seem to be slightly better than "X's Geography". We'll have to consciously decide on any such issue and wade through existing pages, fixing their titles - one-choice-for-all is unlikely to work. Retaining subpages, on the other hand, eliminates this particular problem completely. --AV
        • I've copied your remarks, above, to /Evaluation and added a reply. --LMS
  • Can be used to separate out meta-pages from the contents of the encyclopedia proper
    • This, again, is not an advantage specific to subpages. In Magnus's PHP wiki software, theoretically, we could get rid of subpages entirely while still, as we are planning to, using a "Wikipedia:" namespace for Wikipedia-related articles. --LMS
      • This is the counter-point to the subpages create-a-hierarchy argument. Strictly speaking, one could create a hierarchy of page names with or without subpages, they just make it a little more intuitive to do so. Sometimes this is bad (Electromagnetism/Charge), sometimes this is good (Electromagnetism/Talk). That's all.
        • The argument isn't just that they can be used to create a hierarchy, which of course a no-subpages system could be used to create. The argument is that the hierarchy is hard-wired and difficult to change. That is what I wrote at [1] (which of course I don't expect you to have read, but I've made the point there anyway). --LMS

I'd like to point out a technical thing: In the UseModWiki, subpages are treated differently that regular pages (on the storage level), while in the PHP wikipedia, subpages are defined as pages that have a "/" in the title. "GNU/Linux" will be a page as real as all the others, no matter if I allow subpages or not. Thus, subpage functions consist of

  • the ability to write "/Talk" instead of "September 11, 2001 terrorist attack/Talk"
  • the display of the "hierarchy" in the QuickBar

If we decide to keep the "/"s in the titles (which Larry already said we should do), I should just replace "/Talk" with "September 11, 2001 terrorist attack/Talk" everywhere during conversion, and turn off the "typing saver" feature? As I said before, I consider myself (almost) neutral in this question, but this does sound a little thin...

That might work (I'm not sure I entirely understand though :-) ). I still think, though, that we should have an automatic "talk" link hard-wired onto every page, which links to a "talk" namespace (I guess--you tell me how that should work). This will help ensure that in the future, we need not add ugly "/Talk" (or "Talk:" or "t:") links to the bottom of every page. It'll automatically be there. If we do put talk on a talk namespace, as I think would be groovy, it would be a great public service to copy all talk:foo pages, delete talk:foo, and create talk:foo. Can't be too complicated, can it?  :-) --LMS
No, it isn't. That's why it's already working for a week or two. Just have a quick glance at [2]. Every article page has a green link to the matching talk namespace, at the bottom of the page and in the QuickBar. Automatic conversion of the talk subpages is easy, although links from other pages to a talk page might become foobar ;)
What people here (including myself) don't understand is simply why talk:foo is ugly and evil but talk:foo is not...
I don't care that talk pages are "ugly." In fact, I don't particularly care that talk pages not be subpages, except insofar as adding that functionality allows people to make article subpages. What I mainly care about is getting rid of encyclopedia articles on subpages; see Wikipedia subpages pros and cons under "contra subpages." You can evaluate those arguments in Evaluation... --LMS

I'd like to suggest some things I could do instead (or additionally):

  • Disable the "plain text links": "/Talk" remains, but "[[/Talk]]" becomes a link.
  • On every "Save", a sequence (e.g., "[[.../") is replaced by the "master page" title, like my signature feature ("Magnus Manske"). So, "[[.../Talk]]" on the HomePage will become "[[HomePage/Talk]]".
  • A "replace this subpage" function. That will be a lot of work to hack! But then, we could go and click on that function when viewing a subpage, and everywhere on the "master page" and the other subpages, the "shortcuts" will be replaces by "real" links. That way, we could keep subpages where they are useful, and alter them where they aren't. Of course, we could always help ourselves with REDIRECTs...

Just trying to find a compromise here ;) --Magnus Manske


Well, I think we should entirely get rid of subpages. The arguments against them are far stronger than the arguments for them; the arguments for them have many flaws, and the proponents of subpages have yet to point out any significant flaws in several of the most important arguments against them. --LMS

Don't you mean the "proponents of subpages", Larry? A Freudian slip, perhaps. Your [[/Evaluation|flaws]] pipe-renaming dodge is a bit underhanded. --TheCunctator
Cunctator, could you please be a little less abrasive? You know, your attitude doesn't win you any points or make your arguments any more persuasive. It just makes you look like a jerk, and alienates you from just about everyone. Or maybe you just don't care about that. There is nothing at all wrong with renaming "/Evaluation" as "flaws" because at present the page focuses on pointing out the flaws in the pro-subpage arguments. --LMS
You mean [[Wikipedia subpages pros and cons/Evaluation|flaws]] instead of [[/Evaluation|flaws]], don't you? (Hey, I'm getting into that Cunctator mood already;) --Magnus Manske
Again, I'll repeat: Tell me what will be done with September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack if subpages are removed. You're advocating a change--the responsibility is upon you to delineate how the change will work. --The Cunctator

Well, the actual proposed change makes it fairly clear. In the near term, the slash would become another character with no special function. In order to preserve all links, any plain [[/Bar]] link would have to be rewritten as [[Foo/Bar]]. Or, if the link is writen [[/Bar|text]], the link is rewritten text. So, the pages look all the same and are interlinked just as before. --LMS

New suggestion:

  1. The subpage functionality as we know it is removed.
  2. All currently existing links like Talk are automatically converted into "Talk:" namespace articles.
  3. On the new system, you can still write Talk, but on pressing the Save button, these get converted into talk:foo.
  4. Additionally, I could allow some kind of variable like {{{DIR:foo/%}}} that would display (upon viewing an article) a list of links to all pages that start with "foo/" ("%" is the SQL joker, like "*").
  • 1 and 2 will make Larry happy.
  • 3 means all others can still type Talk, and have that converted into a Larry-compatible format (I'm talking about Larry 1.1 here, the one that allows the "/" char;).
  • 4 might be useful for "main pages" (although we don't have such a thing anymore then). Also, that might not be necessary to implement if I leave the subpage list in QuickBar. It can also be used for other things than subpages, if we start naming pages "A-B" ("{{{DIR:A-%}}}") or "B of A" ("{{{DIR:% of A}}}").

Before you ask, that will keep the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack pages as they are, with a little more link text:) --Magnus Manske


I can totally understand if doing this would mean significantly less coding work and therefore a sooner release date. But I don't see what would be wrong with, as I and others have suggested several times by now, making a "talk" link automatic in every article, and separating talk from the article namespace? I thought we were going to have a talk namespace.

That's what I meant (see my correction); and, we already have talk namespaces since about three weeks on the new wikipedia, and we have a fixed link to it at the bottom of each page for the same time now. You obviously haven't been there since?
Oh! Great! I didn't notice...here's a way to make it more noticable: make the link blue (not green) and underlined, like the other links, so one can easily tell that it's a link. Omit the word "namespaces" which many people won't understand. The link test might read like this: "Discuss this page". I don't like that specific text because it invites people to blather on about the topic, as they so love to do, instead of working on the article. So maybe something like this: "Discuss how to edit this page" or "Discuss edits to this page" or "Discuss changes to this page". Probably, "Discuss changes to this page" is best. --LMS
Also, I have done the appropriate coding today. A script of mine can translate the full English tarball into MySQL in 90 seconds, with talk conversion and everything.
Woo-hoo! You mean that all [[/Talk]] pages are converted to Talk:Foo pages automatically, renamed and everything? What would be even cooler is if [[/Talk]] were on its own line, as most talk page links are, and the link were removed automatically--the link will now automatically be there on every page, as you say below. ... Hmm, on second thought, maybe you're not saying all this.  :-) It would still be cool if you could do that. --LMS

At this point, nearly all subpages are linked to from their main pages. Adding #4 would encourage people to munge titles a la subpages (i.e., reproducing some subpage functionality without subpages per se), so I am generally opposed to it. (The natural response, upon #4's being suggested, would be: "OK, and now, let's have an automatic link from any page named [[Foo/Bar]] to [[Foo]] and to [[Foo/...]]." Of course, I fully realize that others think that such a thing would be an advantage, but for the reasons I've stated and defended many times, I respectfully disagree. --LMS

So I take it you'd agree to 1-3? We can talk about 4; 4 example ;), I could make it an option in your user settings that is turned off by default, so everyone can decide to turn it on or not. I'm not insisting on 4, though. --Magnus Manske
As to #3, I'd agree to converting Talk pages into Talk: pages upon being saved, rather than talk:Foo pages. As to #4, I'm very resistant to this. We possess the capability to do it, and doing it would be cool from a programming point of view. It would make things a little easier for those who would want to continue to use something like talk pages for their articles. But this is functionality that I think in the end is damaging--not devastating, of course, but damaging.
Hey, good luck with your finals, Magnus. Don't let your grades suffer for Wikipedia.  :-) --LMS
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