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Hey, why does this Wikipedia entry look different?
April 4, 2014 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Wikipedia To Redesign Across More Than 32 Million Pages
posted by valkane (54 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I noticed this today for a split second. "Hey, serifs in the title." And then I read the article I was looking u.
posted by thecjm at 6:17 PM on April 4


And then there is this:

Or put differently, why isn’t there a universal typed language that is free for everyone to use? I don’t have an answer to that. Do you?

posted by whyareyouatriangle at 6:45 PM on April 4


It's subtle, but it does look better. The defaulting to Helvetica for body text (on OSX, at least) is nice.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:50 PM on April 4


Ya think? The larger letters look kinda, I don't know, dumber? And sans serif for body text isn't as easy to read. But then again, I'm old. I'm not crazy about it. I guess I'll get used to it.
posted by valkane at 6:59 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Shows either how unobservant I am, or my priorities. I honestly didn't notice any change.
posted by sotonohito at 7:11 PM on April 4


I thought it had somehow gotten stuck in a Japanese encoding, and would eventually go away. I'm not particularly excited about it looking like that from now on.
posted by darksasami at 7:16 PM on April 4


Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, really. Wikipedia as a source for information died years ago; the nails in the coffin were the idiotic userbase refusal to accept Pending Changes (the idiots running WMF should have just made it a WP:OFFICE action and be done with it), and the acceptance of paid editing.

Getting an edit into Wikipedia now really is just about who has more time to wear whom down.

Cosmetic changes aren't going to do a single thing to address the severe structural problems inherent to the entire project.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:21 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


Wikipedia as a source for information died years ago

This is categorically horseshit. Based on what? It's still the #6 website.
posted by cellphone at 7:34 PM on April 4 [33 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I was asking myself the exact question in the title yesterday. I had just cleaned out a huge number of cookies from my browser and many web sites are displaying differently. So I just chalked it up to that.

And I'm with valkane on this one. The bigger font size comes across as part of the whole Web 2.0 reduce-the-amount-of-information-we-show-you move, and usually makes me say to my browser "I'm not 10 years old; I can cope with complexity".

Is there a Stylish style sheet that will restore the previous look?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:48 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Oh nice, I like the new look! The older I get, the more I appreciate larger font size.
*squints at screen, shakes fist*
posted by drinkyclown at 8:04 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


And I'm with valkane on this one. The bigger font size comes across as part of the whole Web 2.0 reduce-the-amount-of-information-we-show-you move, and usually makes me say to my browser "I'm not 10 years old; I can cope with complexity".

Drives me nuts. I hate the trend toward using more and more screen space to show less and less information.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:07 PM on April 4 [14 favorites]


This is categorically horseshit. Based on what? It's still the #6 website.

No-one eats there anymore, it's far too popular.
posted by Justinian at 8:08 PM on April 4 [19 favorites]


Getting an edit into Wikipedia now really is just about who has more time to wear whom down.

I've never had this problem, but then I've never gone on there and tried to rewrite the page about George W. Bush. I just add little bits of knowledge in the little, minor local areas I'm good at. Which, I assume, is what Wikipedia is for.
posted by Jimbob at 8:12 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]


Wikipedia as a source for information died years ago

So also BSD.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:26 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


If white space and readable text bothers you, personal stylesheets are an option. That is the beauty of a markup language.

That said, Helvetica is not great for large blocks of body text IMO. Maybe I'll change it on my machines to something easier on my eyes.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:57 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


This seems to work to get the old fonts: Preferences -- Gadgets -- Vector classic typography (use only sans-serif in Vector skin).
posted by gubo at 9:08 PM on April 4


Wikipedia as a source for information died years ago

I have found information that I wanted to know but did not previously know, on Wikipedia, thousands of times in the last year.

Of course it does have its problems. And it does (also?) have a lot of inane nonsense between the information. For instance, there is nobody for whom this article, as it currently stands, could possibly be useful.

But it's still is an enormously useful site, and I know of nothing that has even begun to supplant it as the standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom.
posted by aubilenon at 9:16 PM on April 4 [7 favorites]


See, Slashdot, this is how you do a redesign.
Clean, simple, uncluttered.
posted by Mezentian at 9:17 PM on April 4


It's an insanely valuable resource that is threatened from within by deletionists and warrior-editors.

Once you realize your obscure-but-important corpus of knowledge is worthless to some cellar dwellar who's also enthusiastically removing all mention of authors who aren't white, male and politically orthodox with white males, its really, really hard to just go there again when you need to understand greek letters in math to grok the comp sci book you're reading. But go there we do.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:20 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


I don't really understand the "across umpty-million pages" thing, the way it's worded...shouldn't it just be a couple dozen CSS files for all the major language groupings and desktop/mobile/etc layouts?

Maybe people just want to make it sound like a much bigger deal than it is, or maybe I'm misunderstanding what's actually going on...
posted by trackofalljades at 9:49 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Maybe people just want to make it sound like a much bigger deal than it is, or maybe I'm misunderstanding what's actually going on...

Right, but when the CSS tweak happens to fuck up your pixel perfect layout you spent hours working on for your Xena: Warrior Princess article, maybe you just decide to send a bunch of mean emails to the poor tech team who decided to greenlight the change.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:53 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Next Thursday, Wikipedia will launch a redesign that’s almost impossibly large in scope, scaling across 32,533,899 pages in 287 languages.

While I'm sure it's not entirely trivial, I'm thinking whoever wrote this article, and in particular this sentence, in such breathless terms either doesn't know how a wiki works or assumes the reader doesn't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:02 PM on April 4 [13 favorites]


While I'm sure it's not entirely trivial, I'm thinking whoever wrote this article, and in particular this sentence, in such breathless terms either doesn't know how a wiki works or assumes the reader doesn't.

"Next Thursday, Wikipedia will launch a redesign that’s almost impossibly large in scope, scaling across 32,533,899 pages in 287 languages. And if you don't know what CSS is, you're probably pretty impressed right now."
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:27 PM on April 4 [29 favorites]


Thinking about it some more, the fact that the reporter thought that specifying the number of pages to 8 significant figures has any meaning — well, that's another warning sign that they don't quite know how web pages work.

I think I'm going to install a Greasemonkey script that changes the background image on all domains. Look, Ma, I've redesigned 50 billion web pages.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:20 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Umm, my web-app development experience tells me that the scope of a redesign of a site that delivers content in 287 languages IS impressive. It's obviously not ever going to be "changing a couple lines of css".
posted by lastobelus at 12:59 AM on April 5


Yeah, but there's a big difference between that and suggesting that 32 million of anything is going to be involved.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:05 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: "While I'm sure it's not entirely trivial, I'm thinking whoever wrote this article, and in particular this sentence, in such breathless terms either doesn't know how a wiki works or assumes the reader doesn't."

Or... works in the Marketing Dept.
posted by chavenet at 1:08 AM on April 5


> The bigger font size comes across as part of the whole Web 2.0 reduce-the-amount-of-information-we-show-you move, and usually makes me say to my browser "I'm not 10 years old; I can cope with complexity".

The redesign does not change the words, only how the words look.

As somebody with appallingly bad eyesight, I appreciate this.
posted by ardgedee at 2:36 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Hate the larger font size. It makes me feel like I by mistake clicked on ehow.com or some other horrible spambait site. Might I suggest that when you're a giant collaborative website editable by anyone and somehow you still manage to be seen as generally authoritative for basic lay purposes, you don't mess with that magic?
posted by threeants at 3:24 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Actually, what the style reminds me of is when someone would for whatever reason post a link to the mobile version of Wikipedia (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/xyz). Is that a thing now? Designing everything to look as it would on a mobile device? Because no. thanks. Some of us are still using the internet on "computers".
posted by threeants at 3:32 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]


I had an immediate negative reaction to the new design, so I set the zoom on Wikipedia pages to 90% in Chrome. That seemed to render the site design back to "normal", to my eyes.
posted by fanlight at 3:47 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Thinking about it some more, the fact that the reporter thought that specifying the number of pages to 8 significant figures has any meaning — well, that's another warning sign that they don't quite know how web pages work.

I really expect more from a publication called Fast Code Sign. If you can figure out secure software distribution practices, then you can damn well figure out web pages.
posted by indubitable at 5:21 AM on April 5


> Historically, this has created a design culture of the haves and the have nots, in which the
> look of Wikipedia was subject to the whims of whatever your software providers had
> already licensed. When rendering its pages in your browser, all Wikipedia would ask for was
> “sans-serif”--basically, give me anything you’ve got that’s sans-serif! As you might imagine,
> this has been a mess.

It was, nevertheless, the way the web was supposed to work. Throw your information up there and let the display device show it as best it can. There was, of course, instant and terrible conflict between that POV and the other one, "I want my page to display EXACTLY as I designed it." CSS was when the designers won--so overwhelmingly that people have claimed "CSS is the new Photoshop."

> The bigger font size comes across as part of the whole Web 2.0 reduce-the-amount-
> of-information-we-show-you move

Designers still winning.
posted by jfuller at 7:10 AM on April 5


I'm a little confused; hasn't Wikipedia had this redesign for awhile? It's live now for sure, but I started seeing the serif font on headers weeks ago. I know because Chrome had a terrible font bug on Macs that took nearly a year to fix where the Wikipedia font would change while you were looking at the page. I wonder if Wikipedia's full design deployment was dependent on that bug being fixed.

The best looking Wikipedia rendering I've seen is Wikipanion on a retina iPad. Here's a screenshot. Unfortunately Wikipanion doesn't have a useful "download the entire wikipedia for travel" option and the good offline readers have crappy rendering.
posted by Nelson at 7:28 AM on April 5


i don't know. the real sign of the intellectual atrophy of the "web" is that Mediawiki markup is still smells like the 90's. no one seems to be seriously thinking about the connections between markup and content, after the "semantic web" got lost up it's own asshole....
posted by ennui.bz at 8:03 AM on April 5


Wikipedia finally developed a visual editor, but it's been a failure, in part for cultural reasons and part for technical reasons. That article is nine months old, not sure if much has improved. Today the visual editor is still there but requires you have a login and enable it in your user preferences.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on April 5


This is categorically horseshit. Based on what? It's still the #6 website.

Number of visitors does not correlate, in any way, with utility.

The people who think Wikipedia is actually useful anymore has virtually zero intersection with the people paying attention to what's going on behind the scenes.

Right now there is an argument going on between an actually-does-actual-science-scientist and what has been referred to as an "underemployed scholar." The latter has created hundreds of articles with made-up scientific taxonomies, and has gotten many of them up to Featured Article status. The former is getting shouted down by mouthbreathing teenagers who think the articles are truthy enough to stand.

This is happening all over Wikipedia, every day. And it's the invested editors, the idiots with more time on their hands than actual experts with actual jobs, who are winning, and either deliberately or through Dunning-Kruger are spreading misinformation via, as you say, the #6 website by pageviews in the world.

The very first thing WMF needs to do is create a new layer of editor: Expert. Anyone willing to share and prove their expertise (confidentially) to the WMF should more or less automatically win any argument about content in their field.

Nelson, I was in on the VE beta, and it has somehow gotten worse since mass release. It is absolutely terrible. While, yes, something needs to be done to make WikiML rather more transparent to new users, the VE was not it. Yet another example of the WMF making the mistake of thinking that cosmetic changes will somehow address the fundamentally broken underpinnings of how the site functions.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


In fact, Wikipedia even has a whole page devoted to what the WMF is doing right now.

They're selecting paint colours while the shed is falling down.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:23 AM on April 5


The problem with experts vs amateurs is as old as Wikipedia itself. There's definitely problems and abuse and I think the fundamental culture of Wikipedia editors is problematic. But saying "Wikipedia as a source for information died years ago" is ridiculous hyperbole.

The smartest change Wikipedia made since its founding is requiring citations on articles and stating a principle of no original research. There was a lot of loss of useful information during the following purge, but the result now is a much stronger encyclopedia. A reader now has a hope of understanding how well sourced the article is, not to mention a ready-made bibliography for further study.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 AM on April 5


HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH

AHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAHAHAHA

AHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Sorry, but those rules are honoured rather more in the breach than the observance. Articles are riddled with original research, and citations (often to totally unreliable sources) provide a figleaf of cover for same.

Perhaps I might have said "Wikipedia as a useful source of information," but still. The site has been circling the drain, getting closer and closer, for as long as I've been editing there.

And the WMF, the nominal owners of the site, are doing not a single thing to address the actual problems.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:37 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I agree with FFFM. WP is to knowledge what cyanide is to nutrition. According to WP Richard II was king of England in 1345. That someone died of plague at the Siege of Calais in 1369, and that Edward III divided his kingdom up between his sons. Move forward a 300 years and we are told someone was a Communist, and they are unable to distinguish between Levellers and Ranters.
posted by lilburne at 9:34 AM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Man, I don't know which version of Wikipedia you guys are shitting on, but I don't use Wikipedia as an intense up-to-the-minute news source, I use it to figure out a 10-mile-up view of a subject, and it never fails me and does a great job showing me where a country is located or what a sitar sounds like, or who lead a battle in 1812. It does those things wonderfully and I use it several times a day, every day (especially on mobile when I encounter a word I don't know). It's one of my top-5 used websites period, and works fine as a general reference.

I look forward to them making it look a little better, I've been wanting to see them try redesigns for eons, but I know from working on multi-language sites any changes are a huge undertaking with many downsides.
posted by mathowie at 10:41 AM on April 5 [9 favorites]


fastcodesign = Fast Co[mpany] Design, not Fast Code Sign.
posted by djb at 10:56 AM on April 5


Man, I don't know which version of Wikipedia you guys are shitting on

The one with which I am familiar with the man behind the curtain.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:59 AM on April 5


Getting an edit into Wikipedia now really is just about who has more time to wear whom down.


This was essentially my experience with editing wikipedia. Sooner or later you'll run into someone whose free time and emotional investment you simply cannot match; because you have a life, whereas this is their life. They boast of their thousands of edits but the least scrutiny reveals them to be basically taggers: there isn't any pattern of knowledge or expertise or even subject matter -- they just want pages to say what they want them to say in some big or small way, they know the game inside out and they'll die before they let any one of them get reverted.

If you're a normal person you just give up and move on after the first couple of times this happens, and they pretty much rely on this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


Considering that the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, published volume by volume in 1910-1911 (according to wikipedia! I can see a copy of the EB 11th ed. on paper from where I sit) is still useful as an information source, it seems very highly unlikely that wikipedia is not.
posted by jfuller at 12:07 PM on April 5


The one with which I am familiar with the man behind the curtain.

Sooner or later you'll run into someone whose free time and emotional investment you simply cannot match;


Yup, yup, yup.

I'm not a betting man, but I'd almost bet my life that the same kinds of politics/arguments mentioned here have plagued every kind of "ultimate font of knowledge" since time immemorial.

The folks at The Royal Library of Alexandria probably had the same issues. But it was the best that humanity had produced at the time. And until there's a serious alternative, Wikipedia is what we got, here and now.

I appreciate anyone behind the scenes doing good work and arguing for what they think is important. But, c'mon, it's a living world, a living language, a living font of knowledge. So it's not gonna sit still.

And earlier, when I googled something I didn't know, the second result was a wikipedia page.

So, yeah. It's the best that humanity has produced to date.
posted by valkane at 2:28 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]


Having said that, I'll say this: politics and knowledge (or lack of) are huge game changers. Which is why it's not the Wikipedia Britannica. Cuz the train, it keeps on moving.
posted by valkane at 2:36 PM on April 5


People categorically dislike change, especially on things they experience habitually. And this was nothing. What was considered would have made heads explode all over the world.
posted by How the runs scored at 7:37 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


I hate the deletionists because they delete exactly the stuff that I want Wikipedia to focus on. I don't go to Wikipedia to learn about quantum mechanics or the history of 16th century Poland. I go to Wikipedia to learn which episodes of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES featured Harley Quinn. Or the backstory of Xena, Warrior Princess. Or what colors the robots that made up Voltron were.

And most importantly to get a plot summary of the next-to-last book in a series so that I don't have to re-read it for a new book. And yet the dumbass deletionists think Wikipedia isn't for plot summaries or whatever. But that's what the basement dwellers who spend the most time editing Wikipedia know most about! They can quote every good line Castiel had in SUPERNATURAL but I wouldn't trust them further than I could throw them to give me a good idea of the historical importance of the Treaty of Westphalia.

And yet they keep trying to emphasize the latter and deleting the former.
posted by Justinian at 3:08 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


[EB] is still useful as an information source, it seems very highly unlikely that wikipedia is not.
That will be because in the intervening 100 years no one has been in that EB changing the content. No one has been in there like Jagged85 manipulating the pages on Number Theory, Medicine and the like to reflect a bizarre view point, invent schools of logic etc, etc.
And earlier, when I googled something I didn't know, the second result was a wikipedia page. [
You do know that Google search position does not equal quality of information?
posted by lilburne at 3:16 AM on April 6


According to WP Richard II was king of England in 1345. That someone died of plague at the Siege of Calais in 1369, and that Edward III divided his kingdom up between his sons.

A quick glance at

Richard II

Siege of Calais (disambiguation) --none of these are dated 1369

Edward III

doesn't appear to match what you're describing. The dates of Richard II's reign are clear, and Edward III is succeeded by Richard II in header and text. Is the situation you're describing elsewhere in the site?
posted by gimonca at 7:35 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Wow, I had just thought that I'd hit command+ by mistake. So I just entered command- and it was back to normal. It wasn't a big deal.
posted by ovvl at 10:05 AM on April 6


Have Wikipedia tweaked the font choices since the rollout? I was all ready to write up a comment about how awful and narrow the font looked on my computer as of a few days ago, and how I had to ctrl+ to read it comfortably... and then I checked a Wikipedia article, and instead I'm getting this huge font like everyone else is saying.

Now mediawiki.org has the awful narrow font I was seeing earlier, while Wikipedia articles have Big McLargeFont. (Which I'm not that fussed about, because like ovvl says, I can just zoom out one and it looks fine.
posted by Gordafarin at 11:24 AM on April 6


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