Commons:Only use category redirects where necessary

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Things are changing. Parts of this may no longer be relevant.

Hard redirects (#REDIRECT) work the same way on category pages as they do on any other page. However, if content is placed in that redirected category, it will stay there. It will not magically move from the redirect to the target category. So in this sense, hard category redirects do not work.

Hard redirects are useful[edit]

Hard redirects are very useful. They aid in navigation, prevent duplicate categories from forming, and help users find what they are looking for. They also allow us to rename categories without fear of breaking 100s of links across Wikimedia, not to mention untraceable external links. Commons, being multilingual, really benefits from redirects since categories can only have one name yet not everyone speaks that one language (that being English).

Hard redirects cause problems[edit]

Pages and files end up in these redirects because upload bots are stupid, categorizing bots are worse, and users, while not always stupid, are easily deceived by blue links. The simple solution would be to simply not use category redirects, but that won't happen. More than any other Wikimedia project, Commons uses auto-categorizing, which has a high error rate.

The "solution"[edit]

Soft redirects and bots. By making hard redirects (#REDIRECT) into soft redirects ({{category redirect}}), users now get to see those files that are in redirected categories instead of going straight to the target category. This is good because the user is more likely to find the content they desire. If there is a problem, they may correct it. Daily, a bot (RussBot) moves files from these redirected categories to the target category. So now those files almost magically transfer from the redirect to the actual category. See User:RussBot/category redirect log.

The reason "solution" is in quotes...[edit]

Even with soft redirects, all our problems are not solved.

  • Upload bots, categorizing bots, some non-native English speakers, and anyone who categorizes without checking the category (e.g., those not using autocomplete) continue to put files in these redirects.
  • The redirect bot can easily be abused so it can't run continuously. In general, it takes less than 24 hours before content is moved from a soft redirect category to the proper category.
  • The template method which fills Category:Non-empty category redirects is slow and unpredictable.
  • When categories are renamed, the broken soft redirects can not be easily repaired and are usually deleted.
  • Too many similar entries makes auto-complete of the searchbar and Hotcat.js confusing for non-native English speakers.
  • Soft redirected categories are the same as non-redirected categories as far as MediaWiki is concerned, so these make our category maintenance reports misleading.
  • Redirected categories provide bad training: when people see "English painters", "English sculptors" ..., they will assume that this format is correct and will create "English trainers", "English politicians", ... in parallel with the correctly named categories.

The list goes on...

The real solution[edit]

Better software.

But we can't wait until 2015 (more or less) for that, sooooo...

Soft redirects, bots, hard-work, educating others, and only using category redirects where necessary.

Tips on becoming an excellent category redirecter[edit]

  • Understand the problems they cause and weigh them against the actual benefits (not the perceived benefits). Sometimes it makes more sense to have a category redirect.
  • If a category has been in use for a while and it gets renamed, it's probably good to leave a category redirect in its place. Most of our links come from other projects and are hard to track (a link-updating bot is in the works).
  • Do not preemptively create them. Wait until the need is real. There's thousands of possible alternate names, spellings, capitalizations, etc. in thousands of languages. The one specific variation that you think is useful probably won't help much unless there's a special reason (e.g. the old name of a category).
  • If you create them, help keep them clean.
  • Use common sense and don't worry about it too much.