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Wikipedia talk:Short description/Archive 3

Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4

List articles?

Should the shortdesc for a list ever be added as just, "Wikimedia list article" ? (without even mentioning the subject of that list) That seems to be a paticularly useless, if not self-evidently tautological, description. Andy Dingley (talk) 12:58, 11 November 2018 (UTC)


@Andy Dingley: one of the possible uses of the short description is as supplementary text displayed when searching. AJAX can be configured to return results while typing into the search box, and it may well be useful knowing that one of several alternatives with similar names is a list article. But in general, your point is well made. --RexxS (talk) 13:18, 11 November 2018 (UTC)
Hi Andy Dingley - For some reason I wasn't notified of the ping above (I think that might be due to you not signing after you added the ping - I think that interferes with the actual ping going out). I completely agree with your point, and for a long time wasn't, just like I don't put something like "Discography of XXX" on discography articles, as it appears redundant, however, eventually I began to as an attempt to follow what RexxS was suggesting as per my interpretation of the guidelines. I can most certainly stop the practice when I come across a list article, if that's the consensus. Onel5969 TT me 11:36, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • A lot of this comes down to how the shortdesc will be used. Is it a supplement to the title, or an alternative to it? (this is a common issue for metadata). If it's a supplement to a title, then "List of otherwise unspecified stuff the title's about" is fine. But if the shortdesc is used on its own, then I think it has to be able to stand on its own: i.e. "A list of foobars" not just "List article". Andy Dingley (talk) 11:41, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
    AIUI, the intended use of the shortdesc is such that it will never stand alone: on mobile it will appear under the title; in search results it will appear after the article title; in annotated links inline in articles it will appear next to the link target. Not that I've done a deep dive on all that's been written about it or anything, so caveat etc. etc.; but that's my understanding anyway. --Xover (talk) 11:49, 28 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Onel5969 (talk · contribs) has reverted me pointing me to this discussion. I fail to see how "Wikimedia list article" is in any way useful. We might as well put "Wikimedia prose article" as the shortdesc for Resident Evil 5. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 13:39, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
    I agree. Galobtter (pingó mió) 15:21, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
  • One thing that's not being weighed in the discussion is that we have to reach 2,000,000 articles with short descriptions before WMF will turn off the feed from Wikidata. Each not-terribly-useful, but innocuous description removed puts us one step further away from that goal. Improve on them, sure, but deleting them isn't going to improve the encyclopedia. --RexxS (talk) 16:04, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
    What's "the feed from Wikidata"? Surely this stuff belongs on wikidata anyway? Now unless Wikidata has invented its descriptions by itself (in which case, they probably are "Wikipedia prose article"), then there aren't significant numbers of such descriptions anyway? Presumably Wikidata is / will be vacuuming up such descriptions from WP in order to populate itself?
    Even in the inevitable wiki-world of conflicting, pointless make-work projects, trying to out-duplicate Wikidata by doing the same thing here, only typing faster and more badly, seems remarkably pointless. Andy Dingley (talk) 16:30, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
    @Andy Dingley: Please observe MOS:LISTGAP.
    What's "the feed from Wikidata"? See Wikipedia:WikiProject_Short_descriptions#History.
    Surely this stuff belongs on wikidata anyway? No. See Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/Archive 138#Rfc: Remove description taken from Wikidata from mobile view of en-WP.
    unless Wikidata has invented its descriptions by itself. The descriptions on Wikidata are created by people editing the Wikidata items. Just like people edit Wikipedia articles.
    there aren't significant numbers of such descriptions anyway?. No. English descriptions are available on millions of Wikidata entries. Just take a look at the site.
    Presumably Wikidata is / will be vacuuming up such descriptions from WP in order to populate itself? Where do you think Wikidata is/will be vacuuming up from if we don't create them here first?
    trying to out-duplicate Wikidata by doing the same thing here seems remarkably pointless. Pointless if you're not worried by vandalism like having a description stating that a famous basketball player "sucks dick" as reported at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Short descriptions #WikiData's description visible. Pointless if you don't care that Bernie Saunders could be described as a "Jewish politician" despite violating our BLP policies, because WP:ETHNICITY isn't a Wikidata policy. If you've got a smarter idea for avoiding those sort of problems, let's hear it. --RexxS (talk) 18:12, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
    Wikidata's decision to ignore WP:RS and WP:V is their problem. The fix to that is that Wikidata content can't be used in an encyclopedia and should simply be ignored. But that's above my pay grade. Andy Dingley (talk) 18:19, 5 March 2019 (UTC)
    @Andy Dingley: Please observe MOS:LISTGAP.
    Wikidata's decision to ignore WP:RS and WP:V is their problem. It becomes our problem when the devs unilaterally decide to include in the English Wikipedia a Wikidata field that is not capable of being referenced, as they did with the short descriptions. I take it you didn't bother to read any of the history I pointed you to. The "fix" you suggest is simply nonsensical. The content is already fed from Wikidata and the only way we can get it switched off is by creating our own local, accountable short descriptions. Have you got the gist of the problem now? --RexxS (talk) 19:01, 5 March 2019 (UTC)

More meaningless shortdescs

Are we going to get some action on this? I've just come across this edit by UnitedStatesian (talk · contribs) which is another vague, virtually meaningless short description. What's with "Wikimedia" anyway? --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 20:01, 1 April 2019 (UTC)

Wikipedia is part of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the page is a project page. You're welcome. UnitedStatesian (talk) 22:57, 1 April 2019 (UTC)
Ironically, the Foundation is currently engaged in an exercise to rebrand all things "Wikimedia" as "Wikipedia", because of better brand recognition. Perhaps on this project we ought to stick with "Wikipedia project page", although my preference for the short description would be "Editing guideline". --RexxS (talk) 01:59, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
Well, then you'll be happy that Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit. Even you! :) UnitedStatesian (talk) 13:19, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
I do know what the Wikimedia Foundation is. My point is that the shortdesc is vague to the point of uselessness. You might as well have put "Internet project page" on the grounds that Wikimedia is part of the Internet. What would you say if I went around every article in mainspace and set a shortdesc of "Wikimedia article page"? What would be the use of that? A short description should be exactly that, a description condensed into a few words. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 19:04, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
Hi Redrose64 - I'm responding both to this thread, and your earlier comment in the above thread. When I reverted you last month, and pointed to the above thread, it was simply to make you aware of the conversations going on regarding this. I attempt to add a meaningful SD to every article I touch, but don't do it to every article. If I can't think of a pithy under 45 character statement which accurately categorizes the article, then I simply leave it blank. Apparently there is a benefit to mobile wikipedians for articles to have SD's. Also apparently, as per RexxS's explanation in the above thread, there is some benefit to even add "Wikimedia list article" to list articles, as it helps mobile users understand that it is a list article. Personally I think "List of..." should suffice for that purpose, but since no true consensus has been reached, and it apparently does no harm to add it, and might provide some useful purpose I add it. Trust me, I don't need to do it. If consensus is that they are redundant (which would be my !vote, btw), I'll definitely abide by it. I do agree, and have started to change the generic Wikimedia, to the more specific Wikipedia. Take care. Onel5969 TT me 19:17, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
@Onel5969: As it happens there is currently a trend to expand bare list articles by adding more background and then renaming them to remove the "List of" prefix. You only have to do a quick search at WP:Requested moves to spot an example or two. I just spotted List of A Certain Magical Index episodes (season 1)A Certain Magical Index (season 1). So where the short description becomes useful for mobile users is if they start to search on "Certain Mag", by the time they get that far, it will have suggested List of A Certain Magical Index episodes (season 1), and underneath it they will see the short description, "List article". Not so useful, you might say, and you'd be right (but it does no harm). However, after the page move has happened and the suggestion comes up with A Certain Magical Index (season 1), it will be very handy to see "List article" under that, so that the mobile reader knows they would be going to the episode list for season one, rather than an article about it. Hope that helps. --RexxS (talk) 21:01, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
It absolutely helps, RexxS, thanks for the illumination. Onel5969 TT me 22:07, 2 April 2019 (UTC)
Redrose64 Short descriptions are content. Any time you find one that you can improve, you can go ahead and improve it. The usual BRD rules apply. It helps if you explain your edit if there may be confusion, and if there is disagreement, go to the talk page and discuss if you feel strongly enough about it. My personal opinion is that "Wikimedia list article" and "Wikimedia project page" can almost always be improved. They are generic descriptions very commonly copied from Wikidata, and not particularly helpful to anyone in a search result. As the default short description is currently drawn from Wikidata these "Wikimedia" short descriptions are no worse than what the user would see anyway, but also no better. Even changing to the slightly more specific "Wikipedia..." is an improvement. "Wikipedia project page" is more informative if it applies, and "Editing guideline" or "Wikipedia editing guideline" are even better when they apply. Cheers, · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 08:12, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

How much detail?

I noticed this edit to an article I wrote and have read the documentation at Wikipedia:Short description and Template:Short description. Having only recently become aware of these, I was looking for guidance on the level of detail that is appropriate. I found a guideline on 40 characters maximum, but saw the scuba example at the template page is longer than that. I saw advice to avoid technical terms, and am wondering how technical is too technical. For the example above, (+)-Benzo[a]pyrene-7,8-dihydrodiol-9,10-epoxide, simply "chemical compound" seems awfully generic. I wondered about "carcinogenic chemical compound", but wonder if "carcinogenic" is too technical... so perhaps "cancer-causing chemical compound"... but then there is a recommendation for the most important features first, which could mean "chemical compound that causes cancer"? Should the description note that it is associated with smoking? It's a metabolite and derivate of benzo[a]pyrene, though this probably too technical, but that is the compound in smoke from which it comes. So, perhaps "cancer-causing chemical compound related to tobacco smoke"? Or, "chemical compound metabolised from a component of tobacco smoke that causes cancer"? Or, "chemical compound derived from a part of tobacco smoke that causes cancer"? I can think of other alternatives (it is a DNA intercalator and is derived from a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon), though those aspects are probably only useful descriptors to someone with specialist knowledge of medicine, biochemistry, chemistry, etc. Or, are we going for something as generic as "chemical compound", in which case it could be done through template:Chembox, couldn't it? Please advise. I'm happy to add descriptions where I can but want to understand the appropriate content level first. Thanks. EdChem (talk) 05:19, 6 April 2019 (UTC)

EdChem, If you can keep the most important content in the first 40 or so characters that will help general usefulness. I would include either carcinogenic (12char) or cancer-causing (14char) as useful to most readers. The bit about tobacco smoke is interesting but perhaps not as useful. Maybe "Cancer-causing compound derived from tobacco smoke" at 50 characters would be a good compromise between usefulness, accuracy, and brevity. Sometimes it is not possible to give a useful and accurate short description in 40 characters or less. In those cases do your best and make it as long as it needs to be. If there is no way to make it shorter, then it must be long. Unlike the WMF reading team, we are constrained by reality rather than wishful thinking. If someone else has a shorter description that works, they can fix it. Cheers, · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 10:02, 6 April 2019 (UTC)
I would say a "chemical compound" is a perfect description. Since there is no other chemical compound with this name, it is uniques and identifies the subject uniquely. If someone wants to know what compound this is, and whether it is found in tobacco smoke, they can go and read the article. May be "Cancer-causing chemical compound" is still ok.--Ymblanter (talk) 10:07, 6 April 2019 (UTC)
I would disagree that it is a perfect description, but am quite satisfied that is a good enough description. As there is no other topic with the same name no disambiguation is required, but the description still helps the user to decide whether or not the article is useful to them before opening it, and more information is usually more useful, so I would class the second version as better. Chemical compound adds no value for those who have a little knowledge of chemistry, as they can immediately deduce that from the name. Carcinogenic is not obvious, though an expert might suspect it. That it is connected with tobacco smoke is even less obvious, but may be what the user is looking for. This is a minor matter though, and I would defer to a subject matter expert, or in the case of a dispute, to local consensus. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 10:21, 6 April 2019 (UTC)
@EdChem: The best advice I can give you is to consider where the short description may be seen, and what use the reader could make of it. Most often, it will be seen by visitors as the second line of the suggestions when searching for Benzopyrene in the mobile view. I got five suggestions at that point: one a dab page, one a "family of isomeric compounds", and three "Chemical compound"s. So I didn't find "Chemical compound" terribly useful in deciding which one was the one I wanted. The next best bit of advice is to look at the opening sentence of the article. If it's been done right, it will tell you what's special about the topic. So I changed the short description to "Cancer-causing agent found in tobacco smoke" (43 chars). I would personally find that more useful in that search. Naturally, feel free to revert my edit or change it. Cheers --RexxS (talk) 18:36, 6 April 2019 (UTC)
RexxS, that's a helpful explanation. The only problem I have with your description is "found in", because it's actually a metabolite produced inside the body from what is found in tobacco smoke, so I'd go with something like "cancer-causing agent derived from tobacco smoke." Thanks also to everyone who has commented. EdChem (talk) 01:31, 7 April 2019 (UTC)


Greetings and felicitations. Virtually all of the short descriptions I see begin with lower case letters. Is this correct? Shouldn't they be in sentence case? There is no mention of capitalization in the documentation. —DocWatson42 (talk) 09:31, 21 April 2019 (UTC)

Hi DocWatson42, the fifth bullet in the "Content" section on the project page includes, "Whether it should have an initial capital remains undecided, but is favored at present." I personally capitalize the first word of the SD (as well as any other words which might need to be capitalized, e.g. "British"). I also change to lower case any words which shouldn't be capitalized, if I'm importing from Wikidata. In other words, if Wididata has "British Olympic Long Distance Runner", I'll import that and change it British Olympic long distance runner. Onel5969 TT me 11:33, 21 April 2019 (UTC)
I agree. When you consider who sees the short descriptions, they look like sentence fragments, often very similar to image captions in that sense. So I'd always recommend sentence case without a trailing period. Obviously it's not crucial, and never something anybody would want to edit-war over. --RexxS (talk) 11:59, 21 April 2019 (UTC)
Thank you for the explanations. I'm afraid I searched for "capitalization", not "capital". I also support initial capitalization. —DocWatson42 (talk) 23:07, 21 April 2019 (UTC)
Return to the project page "Short description/Archive 3".