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Tech:Optionally split long guides into one page per section

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Moved from en:Wikitravel talk:Article templates

I'd like to broach a subject that has come up before but I feel hasn't been answered satisfactorily.

Our most successful and valuable guides (for example, en:Geneva or en:Montreal) are extremely long. This makes them difficult to read on-line, and hard to edit and work with.

Our principle reason for making them like this is to make it easy for readers to print out a guide for a city, put it in their backpack, and head out to the train station.① This is a worthy goal, and it's the main way that I use Wikitravel for my actual travel guide (I just took en:Ottawa with us this weekend), so I think it's important to retain this functionality. I'm concerned, though, that in trying to balance the requirements of on-line use and off-line use, we've leaned too far towards print.

Here is my suggestion: I'd like to break up our guides into thematic sections, per the article templates, and separate those sections into different sub-pages. For example, en:Geneva#Eat would become en:Geneva/Eat. This should give us shorter pages that are more reasonable to work with and read.

I'd like to have a table of contents show up in the left-hand column (perhaps above "navigation" ?) with links to each sub-page. (This would be tricky but I think it can be done.) There are some interesting issues related to districts of huge cities that would have to be worked out, but I don't think they're insurmountable.

For comparison, see LonelyPlanet's Tokyo②, or Frommer's Tokyo. I'd point to the Rough Guides Tokyo page, but it's impossible to link to, as far as I can tell.

In addition, there would be links on the page to view the entire destination guide (main page and all sub-pages) in a printable version. It would also be possible to have an "edit the entire guide" link, too, but I'm not sure if it would be the Right Thing.

I think technically this would be relatively easy to do. I think it would make the Wikitravel online reading and editing experience considerably more pleasant, and may raise our rate of submissions. The downside is that a printable version of the guides would be an extra click away; however, I think that the paradigm of clicking a link to get a printable version is pretty well established on the Web and that most users wouldn't have a problem with it.

What's the feeling about this idea? Is it crazy? --Evan 11:57, 19 Oct 2005 (EDT)

① Feel free to substitute the luggage type and transportation depot of your choice here.
② Is that "See", "Eat", "Sleep", etc. that I see in the menu, there? Heh.

I would object to this. The Web, as a medium, has no need for distinct pages as such: you can happily keep scrolling on forever, and it's the abomination of the pay-per-view banner ad that makes most commercial sites stretch out what should be a single article into bite-sized chunks. I find it much less distracting to read, and much easier to search, content that is presented on one single page, instead of having to go on a wild click hunt trying to find the one page out of seventeen that has the bit I need. And this is especially so if you want to print out a guide.
I also don't think any of our pages are utterly unreasonable in size: en:Japan and en:New York (city) are the only ones that make it past 100k, and I don't see either one growing very much more. If anything, NYC should be cut down to size, with attractions/hotels/whatnot shunted out to districts... and the fact that so many users seem to have problems with the "city district" concept (newbies always add new sites to the main page, not the district pages) also leads me to believe that further fragmentation is not a good idea. Jpatokal 12:29, 19 Oct 2005 (EDT)
So, I think trying to find, say, hotel information on a long guide page is difficult. I also think that hitting "edit this page" and getting 100K of Wiki markup can be intimidating. I think from a usability point of view it'd be really helpful; splitting destination guides into multiple pages would put key info in each section "above the fold" (that is, on the first page before scrolling).
If we can find a way to make all-on-one-page vs. split-on-different-pages optional by user, would you be less opposed? --Evan 14:10, 19 Oct 2005 (EDT)
I'm generally in agreement with Jpatokal on this one. I like the article format and don't see any problem with them being long. It seems to me that the Table of Contents makes it really easy to find the part of the page that you want, and works better than initiating a whole new page load per section.
That said splitting up the sections as an option would make it possible to browse wikitravel with a cellphone, which is the one thing that doesn't work with long pages. Are you thinking of modifying Cache404 to do this? Or do you have something in mind with XMLHttpRequest? I'm not sure how many cellphone browsers would support the later. -- Mark 01:55, 20 Oct 2005 (EDT)
I also don't see a problem with the current long pages. Many newbies have no trouble clicking on the per-section 'edit' buttons where they are not overwhelmed with markup -- a nice side-benefit of the templates. But if you see a way to chunk things out into subpages but still retain the large pages, that might be interesting. -- Colin 12:42, 20 Oct 2005 (EDT)
To add to the chorus, I very much like having all of the information on one page. I think it's actually a strong advantage of Wikitravel that I can read everything about a destination in one place. Maybe there are people out there who like clicking on lots of links, but so long as there is a table of contents I wouldn't want to change the current "all in one place" format. -- Wrh2 13:18, 20 Oct 2005 (EDT)
Well, darn. I'm still not convinced that this is a bad idea, so I'm going to try and re-state my concerns and hope I can convey my point here. I think I started off with a facetious section header, and came off sounding like I think something is wrong, rather than conveying that I think something could be better.
First, it's not clear to me at all that new users are comfortable with editing Wikitravel pages. There is a silent majority of users from whom we never hear because they bail out on the editing process. For example: on perusals of our Apache logs, I see that of 1719 non-bots who have clicked "edit" in the last day or so, only 426 have completed their edit and submit their changes. Let's assume that 50% are not seriously trying to edit (say, they hit "edit" by mistake, or just wondering what would happen); I think 50% is high but let's just assume that for argument's sake. This still means we're losing about half of the people that are seriously trying to make edits.
Obviously, there's no way to tell what is keeping people from submitting. I'm only guessing that a 20K textarea full of Wiki markup is a factor in this. (And, yes, I overstated the size of most articles on Wikitravel -- a very fair point and conceded.)
I also think that the fact that every other travel guide on the Web breaks up articles in this way is worth thinking hard about. I don't think that advertisement is a suitable explanation for this; for example, Lonely Planet doesn't have ads on their pages, but they break up guides like this.
What I'm proposing is that you could optionally see a destination as a single page (for printing or if you just like really long pages) or separated into sub-pages by section. A user preference would allow you to see all destination pages one way or another -- readers and editors who prefer really long pages would have an identical UI to the one they have now.
I could probably use an "I get what you're saying, BUT..." response right now. I'm concerned I'm not making myself clear. --Evan 15:49, 31 Oct 2005 (EST)
Could wiki markup itself be a factor? Travel isn't exactly a technical topic, but Wiki markup is somewhat technical. Any idea what the edit to submit ratio is for 'pedia? -- Colin 15:53, 31 Oct 2005 (EST)
Evan, would your concerns be addressed if
# We had the TOC floating and always visible regardless of how much the reader scrolls down the page
A note: This is so easy to do. The only reason I didn't do it with the css I've been working on is that I thought it would annoy people. -- Mark 16:04, 1 Nov 2005 (EST)
# Section edit link were more prominent - maybe we could have the link right next to the section title, and edit links next to the TOC sections too.
It looks to me that with these changes it would be practically the same as having different pages without losing the advantage of having everything on the same page. Also, I am curious to know if you can figure out the breakup between those who tried to edit the entire article and gave up and those who tried to edit sections and gave up. Also, it would be interesting to see if people give up more on blank articles than on templated articles. If we learn that having a template helps, then may be we should try to fill as many articles with templates as possible, perhaps even look at scripts to do it. --Ravikiran 00:02, 1 Nov 2005 (EST)
More options is never a bad thing, but I still don't see the value in making someone click on an extra link to (for example) see the "Talk" section of the en:Falklands article and learn that "English is the official language." We already split articles up when they become unwieldy using districts and other tricks, and for me personally that seems to work nicely (although the en:United States could really use some breakup, and we don't have a good way of doing so). Anyhow, if this was implemented as a non-default user option I'd have no problem, but I'd rather not see it become default Wikitravel behavior. Perhaps there's another way to achieve the same result that wouldn't affect every article? -- Ryan 15:07, 1 Nov 2005 (EST)
I also am a big backer of "one guide, one article". I just think we can provide an alternate presentation that makes reading and editing parts of our guides easier.
I'm going to take a step back and see if I can do a prototype of this idea. --Evan 17:09, 1 Nov 2005 (EST)


Just to chime in way late with two bits:
  1. Back in the days at Salon.com there was a whole butt-load of user behavior survey stuff done regarding the scroll-long-page vs click-to-short pages debate. What was discovered was that it was pretty much 50-50: about half the folks out there like to click and half prefer to scroll. We settled on a max of 2 1/2 - 3 scrolls on an 'average' screen per page and that's really what I like when I'm reading, say, the New York Times.
  2. I think there are a lot of possibilities that would open up if we broke things up-- at least as an option. It would allow users the option of clicking or scrolling (I think we need to consider 'readers' as well as 'editors' when we think about "users"). But it would also offer us the option of doing nifty content re-combining. By this I mean generating an article on-the-fly such as "Eating in Paris" (ie across districts) or "Hotels in The South" or "Things to do in Thailand."
I think breaking things up gives us a lot more flexibility and could be transparent, if desired, to the end user. Basically I see a lot of pros and no cons. Folks who like long articles don't need to give anything up, the default could still be "one guide, one article" but we could use the power internal syndication to give users access to content in new and exciting ways! Majnoona 20:57, 22 Nov 2005 (EST)
That brings up another point. The Law of the Wiki states that if each section starts looking like a separate article, each section will expand to fill up a complete article. I personally wouldn't mind that, but we should consider this possibility while taking the decision to split up. — Ravikiran 12:58, 23 Nov 2005 (EST)


Breakup Proposal[edit]

I've been thinking a lot about this issue as I think it's only going to become more important as we get more and more super-long articles. Here is my take on the outstanding issues and a proposal for a way forward.

Problem Some users like to click, some like to scroll.

  • Long pages are easier for editing and for reading / printing the whole

article.

  • Shorter pages allow readers and editors to get directly to the desired

content and prevent users from getting lost 8 scrolls down.

  • We currently can't do content aggregation across destinations. Things

to do in Paris, regardless of district; places to stay in Thailand, etc...

headers way down the page.

Solution Breaking up pages by sections. This will allow:

  • Clickers to click, scrollers to scroll. We can have it all! If you like

how it is now, fine, you wont need to see a difference.

  • The possibility of more fine-grained TOC. Once you're on a section

page, the TOC can display subsections such as restaurants by budget.

  • On-the-fly internal syndication / content aggregation.
  • Improved deep-linking and searching. I'm thinking about bloggers, etc


Minor Problem It doesn't make sense to break up every page automagically.

  • Articles like en:Sausalito don't need page-per-section and it might

actually deter people from adding content.

Proposal Use the Article status to identify articles that are complete. Articles that make it to Guide status should have enough content to warrent a break-up.

  • These articles are the ones we would want to showcase through content

aggregation and internal syndication

  • These articles deserve the increased views / edits that would come from

better linking / searching

Comments? Other problems / proposals?

Samples[edit]

So, I put up some examples so folks could get an idea of what I was talking about. Here they are:

I don't think there's anything there that will surprise anyone (EXCEPT that they look almost exactly like "real" articles, so don't try and edit them! They're just copies of the current articles with some of the HTML moved around and/or deleted, so be cautious.) Suggestions or comments? I think we had the idea that you could set a preference to either see the split pages or not... that's not done for those pages, obviously. --Evan 17:22, 15 Feb 2006 (EST)

Hi Evan. The samples here are pretty much what I expected the splitting up of the articles would look like. Sad so say I expected it to look like World 66, and lo, it does. I guess I'm just really not into splitting. -- Mark 17:33, 15 Feb 2006 (EST)
Me too(tm), I don't like this at all. In particular, people tend to ignore the little links in the left navbar (witness the number of bug reports we get about WikiPedia: links 'not working').
I wouldn't object violently to allowing people to use a split view if they like, but I think the default should definitely be the 'whole story' version. Jpatokal 21:52, 15 Feb 2006 (EST)
There is one use case I can think of where this sort of splitting makes some sense: Cell phones. There's usually a limit on the size of a page which one can load on a cell phone connection, so our longer articles won't load on a cell phone. That said one still pays per link followed, and it's a real PITA to have to follow a bunch of links to get to the data you want, so maybe the thing that needs to be fixed is the phones themselves, not Wikitravel.
Still if you and MAJ want this really really badly and it's totally optional and not the default then I guess OK. I don't think it will solve the "problem" of "backed-out" edits, because I don't think that's what they are. -- Mark 05:14, 17 Feb 2006 (EST)
A Wikitravel article with the standard stylesheet will still be unreadable on a cellphone, even if it is split into chunks. The correct ways to handle this are to either recognize that it's a phone browser and reformat accordingly, or (better yet) create a wap.wikitravel.org for phone-formatted content. Jpatokal 11:10, 17 Feb 2006 (EST)
I just finished honing a one-column stylesheet for the new skin should it ever be adapted. It's designed to work with a 270px screen. -- Mark 11:39, 17 Feb 2006 (EST)

I don't know what the current situation on this is, but i'd tend to favour just splitting the listings for hotels, restaurants, shops and bars into their own subsections. It seems to me that as wikitravel takes off, the volumes of listings and the number of links added will increase and increase, especially for larger cities, and make it easier and easier to drown under a load of information - and people might not necessarily want to scroll down past some ridiculous number of bars to reach, say, places to get out. Obviously there should be an option to view and/or print all as one page. I'm not advocating splitting everything: the examples of that above seem a bit 'clunky', just the sections that are prone to fill up in that way. (No more bongos 09:19, 20 July 2006 (EDT))

There are two ways to prevent the list of bars from getting too long: splitting a city into districts, and simply limiting the number of bars listed. We're not trying to be the Yellow Pages, listing every bar you could go to, but a travel guide, listing the bars you should go to. If the Drink section's that long, it's time to trim it. Also, they don't have to scroll; clicking the table of contents will take them directly to whichever section they want, literally as easy as linking to another page. - Todd VerBeek 09:27, 20 July 2006 (EDT)
I suppose that could work as described, but there should at least be some kind of policy on the number of bars/hotels/shops/etc to be listed on the main city page, just as the number of cities on a country page is limited. There should probably be some kind of criteria as well (these may already exist without my knowledge). This is where we start getting drawn into the struggle between abridgement and completeness - for example, I myself would consider it essential when visiting a city to know where to find live music and bars of the kind that I like. And if it was entirely down to me, I'd write about it somewhere like this - but i know the majority would consider it irrelevant. (No more bongos 10:33, 20 July 2006 (EDT))
There aren't any policies for a maximum number of bars/restaurants/hotels. We don't have that problem very often (more often the opposite), so it hasn't been a pressing issue, and it's left up to individual discretion. If I see an article where it looks like someone copied the "Resturants" section of the yellow pages, I'll take out all the chains I recognize, figuring that if someone really wants an Olive Garden, they can find that easily enough on their own. If someone's taken the trouble to categorize bars by different kinds, that makes a long list more useful, so I'm less likely to trim those listings. - Todd VerBeek 11:45, 20 July 2006 (EDT)
As a data point, I have refrained from adding hotelmaker entries for major cities because the list is too long for places like Vegas, San Diego, or San Francisco. -- Colin 16:34, 20 July 2006 (EDT)

Lost discussion[edit]

For guide and star articles, it would be nice for some users to browse the articles one section per page, rather than as one long page. Any such feature would have to allow people to read and/or print the entire article as a single page, though. See en:Wikitravel talk:Article templates#The best Wikitravel articles are too damn long. --Evan 16:48, 17 June 2006 (EDT)

I've got a start of this feature working on review; see http://wikitravel.org/review/Montreal. There's still a lot to do:
  • There's no link to the first section (no title) of the page in the Table of Contents.
  • There's no link to show the entire article in one page.
  • The edit links need to be fixed up so that if the user is on "Montreal - Do", clicking the edit tab edits only the do section.
  • We should probably group some of the sections together -- especially the first section, any geographical lists, and possibly "Understand".
  • It needs to be made optional by user.
That last one is going to be the hairiest -- it's going to require a lot of processing power that our caching system currently keeps us from having to use. --Evan 13:52, 19 June 2007 (EDT)
Looks like a good idea once you've done the above. So by "optional by user", would it be that we set in our preferences how to view all articles, or there would be a toggle link on the individual page to go from one page to multiple pages? It certainly would be cool to have the ability to print just the section you need, that will be great. I think everything through Understand makes sense to group, that sounds right – cacahuate talk 00:24, 20 June 2007 (EDT)

Splitting pages and SEO[edit]

Another motivation for this change is for search-engine optimization (SEO). It's not a secret to anyone that the more users who find and read Wikitravel guides, the more potential contributors we have.

Here is the SEO reasoning for split pages: people search on search engines a lot for the name of a destination ("Paris", "London", "Berlin"). But they also search with two-word search terms like "paris hotels", "london restaurants", "berlin museums". You can get a feel for this using the Overture search term suggester, which will give some rough numerical comparison for different search terms. For example, it gives about 114706 searches for "berlin", and 10633 for "berlin hotel", 2924 for "berlin tour", 1699 for "berlin travel", etc. 291322 for "paris", 83163 for "paris hotel" is even more striking.

Theoretically it would be great to get some more traffic on those other search terms. Not only would there be more users coming to Wikitravel, but they'd probably be more interested in travel information than those users who just search for "berlin" (although I doubt that many users who come from Google, etc. and click on the link that says "Berlin travel guide" don't expect travel information).

Search-engine optimization experts say that the best way to optimize for certain keywords is to have your content focused on those keywords. So, the idea goes, a page just about lodging in Paris will do better on a search for "paris hotels" than a page about lodging, restaurants, airports, safety, history, and museums.

Internet Brands folks are very eager to get this feature in place, and implementing the feature is my current top work priority. They think that it will be really helpful for increasing traffic to the site. I think that may be the case, although I have some reservations -- we get placed on the first or second page of results on Google for some of the biggest destinations like London, Berlin, Thailand, etc., and I'm worried that radically changing our pages will hurt that ranking, on searches that have 5-10 times more volume than the keywords we'd be optimizing for.

But I also think that there's some significant value in splitting pages for readability and for site performance. Especially as our bigger pages grow larger and larger, we need to deal with the situation in some smart way. --Evan 13:21, 10 July 2007 (EDT)

Wikipedia manages to pop up at the top of Google searches a lot despite single-page articles. I think it wise to guess that Google and Yahoo will improve their searches to point to useful sites rather than mere SEOed sites. So let's concentrate on being useful and let Google worry about Google. -- Cjensen 17:36, 10 July 2007 (EDT)

New version[edit]

I've got a new version of the new feature running on review; you can see an example on http://wikitravel.org/review/Montreal. There are still a couple of bugs (incorrect links in the ToC for lower-level headings, and the "edit" tab should probably edit the section the page is about, not the entire article), but I think it's getting close to ready to roll out. Note that you can now turn on and off split pages using a special preference, for those people who want to navigate on unsplit pages, and that you can always get a link to the article "all on one page". The printable version always works with the whole article, too.

I'd love to get some testing feedback, comments, ideas, suggestions, and other advice about the feature. One thing I've been thinking about is that it would be relatively easy to implement manually -- we could just make more articles. But I'm not sure what people would think about that radical a change to our MoS. --Evan 13:21, 10 July 2007 (EDT)

Wow! Nice work! I think this is really workable-- best of both worlds with the preference option. There's always going to be the folks who want to click and those who want to scroll and this should satisfy both. I think it's going to make our biggest and best articles more usable and readable online and off... I'm looking forward to seeing this rolled out as soon as it's tested. Maj 13:40, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
I'm not going to mince my words -- it doesn't work. The TOC, which has until now been a nice little extra, is now the only way to move around and, being a little box of teensy-weeny text shunted off to the side, it's just not suited for that. I'm positive that, if you showed the Montreal page to 10 people now, 9 of them would think "Huh? That's it, just a picture and one sentence? Man, Wikitravel sucks!" and leave in a huff. The navigation has to be a lot more obvious, along the lines of the tabs-plus-index on the Wikimania pages: http://wikimania2007.wikimedia.org/wiki/Local_information
I forgot to mention that the main page is going to have more sections on it -- everything up until, but not including, "See". I haven't finished the code to do that yet, though. I don't think the first page will make quite the same impression, but I know that's not entirely what you mean.
If I had my druthers, we'd have the TOC in the left-hand column, and the navigation would seem more natural. I'm not crazy about the second level of tabs -- we already have a lot of tabs on the top of the page to begin with. --Evan 14:02, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
OK, showing more sections would be an improvement, but I think you need to have a completely obvious way "forward/backward" added to the end of each section page. Also, it would be good to have sectioning activated only for articles that cross a certain size threshold. Jpatokal 14:06, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
It only happens for Guide and Star articles. --Evan 18:42, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
The one reason I'd like the idea is if it became possible to browse districted information this way -- so, instead of "show me everything in this district" as done now, you could also do "show me hotels in all districts". Is this even remotely possible? Jpatokal 13:43, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
I think what you're saying is that we'd have a way to slice listings either by district, or by type? I think that's an achievable goal, although if I had my choice I'd disentangle it from this page-splitting system. --Evan 14:02, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Yes, that's what I meant. How would you "disentangle" this then? Jpatokal 14:06, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Well, the software I've just installed doesn't do anything like that. So I would disentangle them conceptually and defer that effort for a later time.
Thinking about it, though, one way we could make this work is by manually splitting up the district articles by sections then recombining them with transclusion. So if we had "Singapore/Chinatown/Eat" and "Singapore/Chinatown/Sleep", "Singapore/Orchard Road/Eat" and "Singapore/Orchard Road/Sleep" , we could use transclusion to make a "Singapore/Sleep" (by topic) and "Singapore/Orchard Road" (by district). It would be pretty neat if worked. --Evan 18:37, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Sorry Evan, but I still don't see this split-up as an improvement. We've had discussions elsewhere about how to keep articles readable, and the preference has always been to sub-divide by districts or to use sub-headings in long lists. You've indicated that you'd like to chop things up by section for RDF reasons (update: wasn't there a discussion about "all hotels in Quebec" or some similar functionality as a result of this splitup?), but can't that also be accomplished with the listing tags? And if so, what is the perceived benefit of splitting articles up further? Is this something that's coming no matter what, will it be a configurable option, or is it just something you're toying around with that may or may not ever be used? -- Ryan 16:34, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
I think the perceived benefits are: that it will improve search engine rank for searches like "paris hotels", and that it will make it easier to read and navigate very long articles. Personally I agree with the second, and I'm dubious of the first.
This change won't have anything to do with RDF. Is that a TLA joke? It's supposedly good for SEO, is why I'm wondering if you're joking. Anyways, I believe once we're switched over to using Wikitravel:listings tags we'll be able to do some pretty complicated and interesting searches, such as "all hotels in Quebec" or "Mexican restaurants in Venice", but we're not there yet. This change (one page per section) doesn't have anything to do with that.
As for whether this is coming no matter what: I don't think so, but it's not my decision. The momentum here is coming from IB, and we haven't had a case where the Wikitravel:Technical infrastructure policy was tested that way. I'll ask some IB folks to comment here.
My takeaway from the above discussion was that if it were optional per user, the participants wouldn't particularly like it (except for one), but they wouldn't mind if it was available on the site. It is configurable, per user. It's not something I'm toying around with, though; it's been made my main current dev task for the last few weeks. --Evan 18:37, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
"Sorry" as in "sorry, I'm not in favor of this one" - anyone who managed to take Wikitravel from an idea to a Webby is far from a dim bulb :) I'll dig around to see if I can find where the RDF thing came from - I could swear there was some discussion about some nifty RDF possibilities available after a split-up of this sort, but my own bulb doesn't shine too brightly. As to the reasons for splitting articles up, if the benefit is solely SEO then there is very likely going to be vehement opposition; as someone stated earlier, let the search engines do their own optimization, and let's work on creating good travel guides. If there are other benefits then we should be discussing those, but implementing a change that may have a negative effect on usability solely for optimizing Google ranking seems like a bad idea. -- Ryan 19:18, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Still don't like. -- Cjensen 17:32, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
No, no, no, no! This is horrible! This 'solution' looks too much like all the other travel guides available. If I wanted a Lonely Planet guide, I'd buy one. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 17:45, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Ok, I'll explain my repulsion a little further. I am someone who wants printed guides because it's easier than lugging a laptop around or worrying about my laptop getting jacked by the cleaning lady at the hotel. What this monstrosity has just done is made me print out 17 pages for the 17 sections on the Montreal article, plus the district articles and their sections. Why is this a problem? 1) It looks like Lonely Planet's set up (I'll expand on this later). 2) I just printed out, potentially, 40 different pages. 3) Your little (one page) link is almost unnoticeable. In fact, it took me around twenty minutes to notice it.
So tie my criticisms together: I just printed out 40 pages of sections (because I, a normal user, didn't see some annoying link titled "(One Page)", which doesn't give much explanation of what it'll do.) and just wasted a $20 US ink cartridge. Thanks for nothing Wikitravel! Then I realize, "Hey, if I go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com I could just buy the Lonely Planet guide to Paris (Wikitravel looks like Lonely Planet now anyways). If I give Lonely Planet my $20 I get all the information I want, although some (or most) of the information could be out-dated, but at least I don't have to click on 17 different links per article and lose an entire ink cartridge. So, please take that back to IB, who have been very helpful on other issues, but this is one thing I'm hoping they drop. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 18:03, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Hi everyone. I thought it would be helpful if I was present in this discussion, so I'm chiming in here as well. The functionality of the one page vs. split page feature is as follows: for all existing members, nothing should change at all while remaining logged in, but they will be able to choose which option they prefer. For new users and anonymous visitors, the split-page view would be the default, but they will see some message offering them the same option of toggling their settings if they register. I want to stress that this will be an optional feature, and as a matter of fact, existing members may not even notice that anything has changed at all; this was intentional, as the comments on the site indicated that the current format would be familiar and the one they’d be most comfortable with. In addition, it should be noted that, based on discussions with Evan and Maj, only the longest articles would receive this split treatment, and again, users would have to go out of their way and make the selection to view it in this manner for it to actually show up this way.
We’ve been tracking this discussion since it began, and we do understand the trepidation with which some of you view this change. However, we also see the split pages as beneficial overall. In this effort, we've been in constant talks with Evan and Maj to see what we can come up with, and they've been great at brainstorming ways to implement the feature, as evidenced by the content on this page itself. I hope this helps to clarify things for some of you. - Ryan from IB 22:52, 10 July 2007 (EDT)
Hi Ryan,
A potential problem I'll have (and I assume others will have) is that when I'm traveling and I want to access Wikitravel I want to it on the fly and I don't want to log in, especially if I'm in an internet cafe on a shared computer. I'm used to the current format, so are the many thousands of other users, who will not participate in this discussion. The current format is very pleasing, easy to navigate, especially when I'm not logged in (Which is a good portion of the time I'm looking at the site). But, this new proposed version is just plain horrible.
Has Internet Brands actually considered the drawbacks? Some of the immediate drawbacks that come to mind: 1) Wikitravel will look trashy to the millions of users who visit casually. 2) It makes it harder for the millions of normal users to figure out how to print and entire page. There's no way to easily fix this. IB can put up a (One Page) link, but it doesn't make sense and it's not very noticeable.
Why can't we use tags on each page to influence SEO? If, that's in fact, the reason why this is being pushed. I'm curious, is IB trying to get more pages so there will be ad space on Wikitravel? Again, I'm not opposed to ads, but if that's the reason this is being pushed I'd like to know why IB can't settle for the ad space available to them on the current layout? -- Sapphire(Talk) • 23:26, 10 July 2007 (EDT)


To my surprise, I have come around to liking the concept, but not the actual execution. Personally, I like having everything on one page. But that is because when I visit a page, I am expecting a travel guide and so I want my guide on one page. But think of the person who has never heard of Wikitravel and who just lands up on the Montreal page because she searched for "Montreal Hotels". Assuming that google directs her to the page (which it won't, because those keywords are heavily spammed) will she find what she was looking for upfront? Will she scroll down? I am betting she won't and that way, we have lost a possible contributor. But I agree that the execution needs to be lot better and it needs to be optional, because once we convert that person into a contributor, she will probably want everything on one page too. — Ravikiran r 04:58, 12 July 2007 (EDT)
I'd love to hear what you specifically don't like about the execution. Is it a navigation thing, like Jani mentioned? Or something else? And, yes, it's optional -- it's the last checkbox on the last page of Special:Preferences. --Evan 19:43, 13 July 2007 (EDT)
Yes, it is navigation, but it is more about two fundamentally different ways of browsing. I read articles, I browse the web. Here is an idea: Can you show the summary information for each section (first 2-3 lines) on the main page and then a link to more..? — Ravikiran r 02:27, 17 July 2007 (EDT)
I'll have to chime in here as well. I'll also have to come out strongly against this change. If the change were implemented as non-default, it might not bother me so much, but I hate the thought of presenting new users with such fragmented, click-heavy article clusters. I think having it all on one page is far more convenient and more inviting for new users. Here are some of my reasons:
  • A good article has a map, and that map belongs to the whole article. Many of the other sections refer to the map,

and if I were a casual user looking at the Eat section, for example, I don't want to click-fish around for where it was I saw the map and toggle back and forth every time I'd like to refer to it.

  • For the above reason, and others, I think fragmentation will lead to a lot more instances where newbies feel inclined to repeat information, photos, or maps in multiple sections of the same destination article. And since newbies don't necessarily know the correct place to put a given piece of information, they may add things without realizing the info is already there somewhere unless they click around and read every last section of the article.
  • Not all the sections even have that much information, so it gives you a whole extra page load wait just to read a measly paragraph in the Respect or Get out sections, for example. Plus, the way the site is running lately, that extra click one has to make can mean an extra 15-20 seconds of wait.
  • Fragmentation makes for a much less stylish, more dime-a-dozen presentation. Infoboxes, photos, and maps no longer bridge across multiple sections. Many sections are just reduced to a small block of print on a white page because not every section has its own photo. Some pages may have awkward-looking infoboxes that are actually as long or longer as the main text of the section. The TOC becomes even more dominant than it already was. If the fragmented view is made the default, I feel that over time people will get used to that and will start to tailor the visual presentation to make each individual section look nice on its own, rather than taking the whole end result into consideration. If the point is print articles, why should the default view here encourage people to edit sections individually without even showing what the big picture looks like?
I also have the following concern: People have said that we would still be able to set our preferences for a one-page view, but what I want to know (whether fragmentation is default or not) is whether we would still be able to edit the entire article at once. I feel that being able to do this is absolutely essential: If an article needs a lot of information shuffled around between sections, it is the only easy way-- having to cut and paste while saving a section, going to the target section, clicking edit, etc. is extremely time-consuming and prone to causing mistakes. Plus when proofreading an entire article for minor errors, I don't want to have to go through 12 edit processes. Texugo 20:04, 12 July 2007 (EDT)
Quick reply -- yes, you'd be able to edit the entire article at once (...unless you have one of the legendary browsers that MediaWiki thinks can't edit articles over 32k). On the performance issue -- unfortunately, to make split pages optional, I've had to turn off server-side caching for review for logged in users. When we roll it out for production, we'll have to turn off server-side caching for logged-in users on all pages. --Evan 20:13, 13 July 2007 (EDT)
I have no problem with this existing as an option for users, but I would not use it - I like to think of articles holistically, and this strongly discourages that - and I would strongly argue against it being the default. The fact is, Wikitravel is still not very well-known, even among plenty of generally web-savvy folks who know of the design monstrosity that is Wikipedia. When someone stumbles across Wikitravel for the first time, we need to communicate to them that this is a travel site with a ton of useful information. The current view does that. A person scrolls down and, within a split second, learns that this article is positively bursting with stuff and is (or can be) every bit as comprehensive and useful as a printed travel guide. With that single page view, they have no idea how informative this site can be, and aren't particularly motivated to find out. It looks exactly like the hordes of external guides we've all deleted over and over again - a single photo, a cheery paragraph about the destination, and nothing anyone actually needs. (And, my god, if you thought whitespace used to be a problem with the old ToC, how are articles without pictures - the ones that brought that discussion to life in the first place - going to look with this single page view?)
Make this option available as the non-default. No new user looks at a Wikitravel page for the very first time and has the first thought "Damn! This would be inconvenient to print!" If they think that, it's much later in their interaction process with the site. In addition to Texugo's point, can you imagine the torrent of duplicate bits of information people will add? In Get Around, they're several clicks away from seeing that Soopa Doopa International Airport was already listed in Get In, so they (well-intentioned) add it. We see this in Huge City articles on a regular basis - people add hotel information to the City article, not the District. I shudder to think of that played out across the entire site. Gorilla Jones 21:36, 12 July 2007 (EDT)
I understand all your points, except In Get Around, they're several clicks away from... Get In[.] I don't think that's true; you're never more than one link away from any section in an article. --Evan 20:13, 13 July 2007 (EDT)
You're right - I should have noticed that the ToC follows them into the new section-page, so it's only one click. Currently, they have to scroll up and scan; under this option, they have to scroll up, check the menu (assuming they understand there are separate sections for getting in and getting around), click, scroll down and scan.
I'm not sure how the goals of this implementation would be served by making this the default for all users. I understand the goals as the following: 1) Optimize search engine placement by generating tons of new pages; 2) Make individual sections easier to print. How does being the default serve those goals? Both can still be fully realized by having this new view as the option, not the default. I think if this new view is the default for new users, we've taken what should be our best and most attractive guides - the strongest reasons we can present for them to use Wikitravel further - and made them appear to be our emptiest and most bare. We've obscured how informative our guides can be. And that's absolutely not what we should be doing upon a new user's first look at the site. Gorilla Jones 00:41, 14 July 2007 (EDT)
I'd strongly agree that the single-page view should remain the default for all users, for reasons mentioned above... Gorilla makes a good argument. I can't really comment about the search ranking issue because it isn't something I really care about, but as for the ability to print a section, why not add a [print] link similar to and near to the [edit] button for the section? Seems like a whole lot less hassle, and keeps the page in tact. I see Texugo's point also about the 2 groups of users starting to design for their chosen view... don't know how big a problem that would really become, but interesting to think about. – cacahuate talk 00:48, 15 July 2007 (EDT)
I see I am coming in late to a very long discussion with a confusing organization; hopefully I am commenting in the right place. After reading this entire discussion, I see no good reasons to implement this change and countless sensible objections raised from just about every long-term contributor on Wikitravel. Any reasons put forth for implementing the change have been rather easily countered. I would like to add my voice to the many that object to splitting pages across sections—it is a bad idea which will significantly deprecate the quality of Wikitravel as a travel service and as a wiki.
Here is yet another reason why optionally split pages is a bad idea. Unlike the other travel sites mentioned in the proposal (which are terrible, practically useless sites IMHO), Wikitravel is a wiki. In a wiki, the way a page appears to an editor affects the way the editor will edit the page. Having two versions of each page will lead to conflictual understandings of how the articles look and therefore to conflictual edits and management. Ravikiran's earlier comment, "if each section starts looking like a separate article, each section will expand to fill up a complete article," points clearly to this problem. I would like to emphasize that this is just one additional problem with this change—I agree with every objection throughout the history of this thread.
Going forward with this change over the objections of so many dedicated editors would be decidedly unwiki and would likely generate a fair amount of ill-will (at least with me anyway). Having optionally split pages is a bad idea; leaving pages split as the default is a terrible idea. And above all, there are a lot of issues on Wikitravel that would benefit from some attention from Evan—I am sorry to see that his time is being used up on this. This proposal should be dropped. --Peter 22:37, 16 July 2007 (EDT)
I totally agree with Peter. I really do not understand why we think about this big change when other construction sites have not been closed yet. I just want to remind that the problems with the new TOC are not solved for almost two months now! How long will it take to fix all problems emerging with the splitting??? --Flip666 writeme! • 20:42, 17 July 2007 (EDT)

Ads[edit]

Split pages means lots more page views and lots more ad revenue. How much more? Do you like 200% more, 500% more? Lots. Please be honest about what is driving IB to want split pages.

The community does not want split pages that break our community architecture into ad cubicles.

The community would understand and tolerate discreet non-damaging text ads that don't break our architecture.

The community also understands bad architecture and greed. Cows did not write Wikitravel.

Let's have discreet non-damaging text ads now and drop the $ motivated splitting up of our community's great user designed, user oriented, Webby winning, one-page-per-destination architecture. --Rogerhc 20:27, 16 July 2007 (EDT)

I don't know if that's the reason and my suggestion above was merely an unsubstantiated suggestion. It was based on the comment that IB really wanted this to be done, nothing more. I wouldn't actually jump to any conclusions and throw mud at IB, especially because IB has been such a good steward to our community and has done its best not to interfere with the community discussions. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 22:01, 16 July 2007 (EDT)
I don't want to turn this discussion into an IB-bashing one, but I suspect that should this change be pushed through despite the general lack of support then it would re-affirm a lot of people's fears. Yes, IB has done a good job of hosting the site, and for that I thank them, but as far as I'm aware they've also been unwilling to provide anyone with any kind of database/XML/whatever dump of the content, which is against the spirit of the creative-commons license. During the times someone from IB has contributed to Wikitravel discussions they've seemed reasonable, friendly, and enthusiastic, but those discussions have been infrequent and so far no one has been willing to discuss their inevitable plans of how Wikitravel will be monetized. Like Roger, this issue of splitting up articles is giving me an uneasy feeling, and without some clarification from IB I'm not sure that feeling is going to go away. -- Ryan 01:16, 17 July 2007 (EDT)
John from Internet Brands here. I want to cover a few points. With regard to plans for monetizing Wikitravel, I apologize if we haven't been more forthcoming with details. This has not been out of secrecy, but rather because we still have no near-term plans to monetize the site. Naturally, we are a business and eventually we'll need to generate a return on the money we paid to Evan and Michele. But at this time we continue to be fine with providing the technical infrastructure for Wikitravel without generating immediate revenue from the site. At some point we will need to monetize the site, presumably with AdSense. When we reach that point, we intend to be respectful of the Wikitravel community and not overdo the amount or prominence of advertising on the site. However, we haven't begun thinking through any such implementation.
As for providing users with an option of viewing long articles in either a single-page or multi-page format, the suggestion wasn't to force that on users, but rather to enable the choice. I agree a clear toggle from multi-page to single-page view would be important to have. And yes, I believe we could have an Edit Entire Article option, as Texugo suggested.
Offering multi-page versions of guides would be helpful in terms of bringing new users to Wikitravel for the reason Evan explained under "Splitting pages and SEO". However, we don't view it as a way of increasing advertising revenue, as this isn't looming as an issue.
There seems to be strong community sentiment here for not having split pages as a default setting, and I see the sensibility of that. We like Jpatokal's suggestion for enabling queries such as "show me hotels in all districts". We can help with the back-end tech work required to make this available if that seems worth developing.
Regarding concerns about performance issues related to turning off server-side caching, we are in the process of upgrading the Wikitravel servers. Evan has recommended that we upgrade the Apache web server, perhaps by putting squid caching in front of it. We will make whatever investment is necessary to maintain strong performance for the Wikitravel site no matter what is done with the caching. Redondo 22:14, 18 July 2007 (EDT)
John, thanks for your comments. The biggest sticking point for me is making this the default for users who are not logged in. From a normal user's point of view, I don't want to view a broken up guide, but I'd rather have all the info immediately available and I do not want to click any buttons. I spend a lot of time as an "anonymous" user and I occasionally edit as an "anonymous" user too, so if this becomes default for anonymous users I'm going to be greatly inconvenienced. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 20:35, 19 July 2007 (EDT)

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