Would there be any interest in copying Wikipedia's "Did you know?" column, filled with strange but true trivia about destinations and events? For example, I recently wrote a few words about Tsu, which claims to have the world's shortest pronouncable city name. Jpatokal 10:38, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
Shortest in what script? In Latin script, I'm just browsing the UN/LOCODE list, and after the first few pages I've got Ofu and Tau in American Samoa as well as Cue in Western Australia. There's also As in Belgium, which is only two letters, as well as Ath... This claim doesn't seem to hold water, unless there's some jimmying with the definition of "short", "pronounceable", and "city". --Evan 10:48, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
Um, what I meant is that the name of the city when pronounced is as short as possible — as the "u" is more or less silent it doesn't really even have a vowel, it just sounds like "ts" or "z" in English. "O-fu" and "Ta-u" are presumably bisyllabic, and the rest all have vowels.
But this is something we can debate on Talk:Tsu — my main point is, is there interest in running a trivia section like this? Jpatokal 11:01, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
Plus, Tsu is really spelled "津" which is only a single character. ;) But seriously, this could be fun. If we refactored the geography listing on the Main Page back to two columns, we could put this in place of the third. Wikipedia limits theirs to just-created articles, but I don't think we need to be that bureaucratic about it. - Todd VerBeek 11:39, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
I got your original point about the DYK? section, and it sounds good. I'd rather see the section appear at the bottom of the Main Page -- it's a nice feature, but the principle use of the page should be to let people drill down into the destination guides. --Evan 11:49, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
OK, sounds like we have consensus for the idea. But using Wikipedia's name is a little dull, can somebody suggest a better, more travel-oriented name? LP has a "Weekly Travel Trivia" section, so that's out. "Reasons to visit"? "Go there because"? "Why go?" "Hook, line and sinker"?! Jpatokal 12:40, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
"Local Color"? "Because It's There" (if that's not already being used by some mountaineering wiki)? "Curiosities"? -- Bill-on-the-Hill, currently writing from 184.108.40.206 14:45, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
"Wikitrivia"? "Discover"? (keeping with the imperative-verb theme of the MoS) - Todd VerBeek 14:59, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
And a few off the bat...
The Parasitological Museum in Meguro, Tokyo, a popular date spot, showcases a tapeworm over 10 meters long.
The Wakamiya Hachiman-gū Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan is dedicated to a mythical phallus called Lord Big Iron Penis.
The temple of Sala Kaew Ku in Nong Khai, Thailand is packed with bizarre concrete statues over 20 meters tall and enshrines the sculptor's mummified corpse.
The Saptohoedojo Art Gallery in Yogyakarta, Indonesia counts both Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama among its customers.
Hotel Adnis in Osaka, Japan offers a Hello Kitty bondage room.
How often would this be updated? - Sapphire
I'd just suggest an informal running queue like in Travel news/Logbook. 3-5 items on display, new stuff goes up top and pushes old stuff into the archives. Jpatokal 12:49, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
Sounds good, but to keep everyone and new users from throwing up every bit of information how about as a rule every new tidbit has to stay up for at least a day or two. - Sapphire
A page for submissions would be nice so that someone doing a bunch of copyediting can save away all the items he notices for later use. -- Colin 13:34, 12 May 2006 (EDT)
Length of spotlight
How long should each tidbit be in the spotlight? I have a slight hesitation that at times there will be a lot of users who will keep changing the queue and one tidbit may not get the same amount of time as others.
I'd propose a requirement of leaving a piece of information up for at least two days? - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 16:44, 23 May 2006 (EDT)
I don't see that happening really. Destinations on the main page don't get rotated for months on end. — Ravikiran 02:32, 24 May 2006 (EDT)
Bold and italic
To my eye, mixing bold, italic and blue links in the same sentence looks kinda chaotic. Could we agree to stick with the scheme proposed -- link the place, bold the attraction, and let the reader figure out what's so unusual about it by themselves? Jpatokal 23:48, 23 May 2006 (EDT)
Using bold for the names of attractions helps in the See or Sleep listings because it contributes to an orderly listing format, but here is it puts too much emphasis (bold, usually capitalized) on the least interesting part of the statement, and I was trying to figure out a way to overcome that. It's also based on the assumption that every bit of trivia is about some specific attraction at that destination, leaving it unclear what to do when you're not talking about a museum or hotel. I'd be happy leaving bold and italics out altogether, but if we're going to emphasize something, I think it should be to draw a skimming reader's attention to the most interesting phrase of the statement. - Todd VerBeek 07:52, 24 May 2006 (EDT)
My thinking was that bold serves to highlight the actual attraction, so if they see "Parasitological Museum" in bold, they know what to search for on the Meguro page if they want to see that 10-meter tapeworm... Jpatokal 09:12, 24 May 2006 (EDT)
But taking note of the exact site is the last thing they're going to do. Putting something in bold makes it the first thing they look at, the colored link to the city is the second thing they'll look at, and the plain text is the last thing they'll give their attention to (if at all). So if "Wakamiya Hachiman-gū Shrine in Kawasaki" doesn't catch their interest, their attention won't linger long enough to even see that Lord Big Iron Penis lives there. To get people interested in places they're not already investigating (which is what I gather the purpose of this feature is), the order of emphasis should be 1) why it's interesting, 2) what city it's in, and 3) where to see it. If I were advertising a concert, I wouldn't put VanAndel Arena in bold, Grand Rapids, Michigan in color, and leave the name of country-music hunk Kenny Chesney in plain text. The same principle applies here: "The Wakamiya Hachiman-gū Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan is dedicated to a mythical phallus called Lord Big Iron Penis," would be more effective. - Todd VerBeek 13:22, 24 May 2006 (EDT)
OK, I see your point. It's not how Wikipedia bolds their DYK entries -- the focus there is on the article, not the interesting tidbit -- but I agree that your suggestion is better and I'll revise the entries accordingly. Jpatokal 01:11, 25 May 2006 (EDT)
How do I get the Main Page updated? I done as directed to update, but it hasn't done anything. - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 11:28, 28 May 2006 (EDT)
A suggestion: It wouldn't be a bad idea to have the nominees for this liberally salted with items from places queued for Destination of the Month and Off the Beaten Path. That way, when the place becomes DotM/OtBP, there'll be something that causes people to say "Oh yeah, I remember that!" thereby increasing the visibility of the whole site. Needless to say, they shouldn't all be from incipient DotMs/OtBPs, but some overrepresentation (maybe 20%?) strikes me as a good idea. Santa Fe, the Pitcairn Islands and Iya Valley are presently there, as a start. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 09:41, 30 May 2006 (EDT)
Is there a way we should distinguish these items relating to a future DotM/DotMOtBB from other items that could be used at any time? Especially, for the Santa Fe article and Cincinnati (I guess TVerBeek replaced Munich with it). - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 00:45, 1 June 2006 (EDT)
Your idea of a section for DotM/OTBP trivia, so that we can tap specifically into those items at the appropriate time, seems to work for this. Hmm -- wonder whether there should also be such a section for trivia associated with Collaborations of the Week? -- Bill-on-the-Hill 21:17, 14 June 2006 (EDT)
Thanks. I thought it was a great idea and just added the headline. I rather like the idea of the CotW idea too, hopefully, it would encourage contributors to help out on the CotW. A "CotW" header? - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 21:26, 14 June 2006 (EDT)
Unfortunately, there haven't been updates to the DotM and CotW sections for several months now. I've taken the liberty of merging the few existing trivia in those sections back into the main one. Simplify, simplify. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 09:07, 27 September 2006 (EDT)
I don't mind getting rid of the CotW section, because it was pretty pointless, but I'd rather keep the DotM/OtBM section around. If the problem is there wasn't enough trivia I think that could easily be overcome by combing through an article or a little bit of research (Which I'll happily do). If you don't mind I'd really like keeping that section around. -- Sapphire 09:24, 27 September 2006 (EDT)
I agree that trivia for DotM/OtBP should be on the list. However, between the fact that nobody was contributing DotM trivia in that section and the fact that there's now a bot that handles the postings, the section for DotM/OtBP is anachronistic. Better to just load the relevant trivia into the main section and then move things around so that the DotM trivium emerges just ahead of the DotM. That would have to be done anyway, since the bot can't pick things up from the DotM section, so it's not like it's extra work. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 09:43, 27 September 2006 (EDT)
I don't think this is a good one to use. No problem with the unsavory fact itself, but we supposedly should restrict this list to articles that are in at least a Usable state, and the Chernobyl article definitely doesn't qualify. (Hmmm -- a really off-the-wall CotW?...) -- Bill-on-the-Hill 00:06, 1 June 2006 (EDT)
Good eye, forgot about that. Just came across that piece of info while reviewing a past conversation about the article and added without thinking about status of the article. CotW? Umm. Maybe in a couple of months - I suggest November, when I'll be in the area. During the week leading up to CotW I won't be able to contribute much so I'll give you guys all the info I have and you guys could add it in. - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 00:12, 1 June 2006 (EDT)
I think we should keep in mind that this is a travel trivia section — I can still deal with intestinal parasites and war zones, but radioactive fallout probably isn't too high on the agenda of most travelers. Jpatokal 00:32, 1 June 2006 (EDT)
The thing that I had added really doesn't belong here. It's something more appropriate for Wikipedia's "Did you know...?" Now, that it's been about an hour since I added I'm think to myself "Why the hell did I add that?" I'm highly interested in technology so there's a possibility I might venture into the area (After checking out the level of medical risks involved) while I'm in Kiev, but I very much agree with you that it doesn't belong in the Discover section. - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 01:15, 1 June 2006 (EDT)
Could we move the Discover section to be directly below DoTM/OtBP? I'm curious as to if it would look better there. Anyone already have a sadbox version of the Main page and see how it would look there compared to where it currently is? - Andrew Haggard (Sapphire) 23:59, 13 June 2006 (EDT)
"It's Chic To Reek"
Note to anyone who disapproves of my adding this little fact, on the grounds that Perth (Ontario) isn't yet in Usable status: Please remedy by improving the article, rather than deleting the trivium. That one is simply too juicy to pass up! :-) -- Bill-on-the-Hill 22:36, 14 June 2006 (EDT)
Use of trivia from Outline articles?
Andrew updated the template today, with the trivium for Husavík -- which doesn't meet the "Usable or better" criterion specified in the guidance. (In fact, the Phallological Museum is the only content in the entire Husavík article.) I bring this up, not to criticize Andrew, but to raise the question of whether the "Usable or better" criterion is really needed. For one thing, if it's to be enforced, it puts additional burden on whoever's maintaining the template, since there's no way of knowing whether the source article is Usable except to go rummage through it. For another, it shuts off a lot of articles that might have fun facts like this one. Should this guidance be relaxed? -- Bill-on-the-Hill 12:00, 24 June 2006 (EDT)
I'd actually like to see it enforced more. Fun facts are fun, but they're not of much use to the traveller if they can't at least figure out how to get there. If this serves to improve articles before they end up on Discover, all the better. Jpatokal 20:34, 15 July 2006 (EDT)
DiscoverBot choked on a macron and was hospitalized for almost a week, unable to lift a bit. I've improved his iron mandibles so he can chew on UTF-8 now, and he's also learned how to sign his name and the date on the Discover page whenever he visits it. Unfortunately the timezone is UTC+8 though... Jpatokal 05:10, 26 July 2006 (EDT)
And now the bad boy of the disco world was leaving so many old copies of articles around that it slipped and fell in its own waste. Hopefully the remedial potty training I just administered will help. Jpatokal 06:19, 18 August 2006 (EDT)
So I took TVerBeek's suggestion and created Wikitravel:Discover for the "Did you know?" stuff. Debates about naming and how to display this on Wikitravel talk:Discover, please. Jpatokal 13:48, 23 May 2006 (EDT)
Pleasingly symmetrical examples of the bi-X-chromosomal persuasion of Homo sapiens
So regarding the flower city of Bandung, the phrase "the beauty of its women" was just changed to "the beauty of its female inhabitants". Maybe I'm just a male chauvinist pig man who's been living in South-East Asia too long, but what exactly is so wrong with the first rendering that we need four extra syllables to say the same thing? Would "the bravery of its men" also require changing to "the bravery of its male inhabitants"? If anything, I've always thought that "male/female" sound a lot more livestock-y than "men/women". Jpatokal 08:40, 15 August 2006 (EDT)
I too had a good mind to revert that change, till I realised that it would stay on the Main page for one more day and there were other things to do in life. — Ravikiran 14:16, 18 August 2006 (EDT)
The wording just struck the wrong chord with me; probably it was the combination of the possessive form with "women". Maybe "the women there"? --Evan 14:29, 18 August 2006 (EDT)
Speaking as a woman, I think I'd prefer "ig the hotties" or something along those lines. But seriously, what about "beauty of the local women"? Thos it'll probably be gone before we settle on something ;-)... Maj 14:37, 18 August 2006 (EDT)
Timing of DotM trivia
The recent juggling of the Cincinnati trivium to match the date mentioned in it strikes me as maybe not the best idea. In my opinion a Discover item involving a pending Destination of the Month should appear just before the DotM actually goes up, rather than while it's featured -- say a week ahead of time. This avoids "overkill" in the Main Page and also serves to hold the attention of the casual reader: "Unknownistan is the DotM now? Oh yeah, I read about their use of heavy artillery in wedding ceremonies a couple of weeks ago in Discover. Kewl!" I raise this since it's about time to decide when to schedule in the Iya Valley trivium. Thoughts? -- Bill-on-the-Hill 16:26, 2 September 2006 (EDT)
Automatic updates on hold
So Discoverbot has been down for the last few days because the server running it has gone kerplonk. It should be back in action on Monday or so. Jpatokal 07:49, 10 September 2006 (EDT)
The server is back online, but something somewhere broke(tm) and pywikipedia can't even log into Wikitravel anymore. I probably won't be able to debug this until Fri-Sat at the earliest. Jpatokal 09:49, 13 September 2006 (EDT)
Brimming with grandmotherly kindness, Evan and Maj have provided a new home to our poor little lost bot. He did a little manual spin just now and updates should return to normal tonight — only the timezone will change. Jpatokal 11:29, 20 September 2006 (EDT)
And now ole Disco is on strike because he doesn't like the new Mediawiki version. The assembly line has been shut down while I search for a length of rubber hose to whip him back into shape. Jpatokal 13:54, 7 March 2007 (EST)
Prompted by Lake Baikal's Eastern Siberia, I added a DOTM-style "slush pile" for entries that aren't quite ready. Currently the article in question contains next to nothing... Jpatokal 12:00, 23 September 2006 (EDT)
Second, I wanted to give some ideas about how it works, since that may guide the development of new discover items. Each RSS feed item for "Discover" is a single line from Template:Discover. The link and title come from the deepest linked destination in the discover item. So, if you link Walla Walla, Washington, United States of America, the link will be to http://wikitravel.org/en/Walla_Walla and the title will be "Discover: Walla Walla". The date of each item depends on the edit date of Template:Discover; I assume the first item was published on the last edit date, and each of the following list items was published 24 hours earlier. Not a solid assumption, but then again, the pubdate on these things doesn't matter that much.
Finally, each RSS feed item has to have a unique URI. RSS readers use these identifiers to see if they've already read an entry or shown it to the user. I use tag URIs of the form tag:wikitravel.org:en:discover:[title]:[first bold part], where [title] is the title and [first bold part] is the first emboldened part of the item. Spaces are replaced with dashes and non-alphanumeric chars are removed. So, the discover item about the Spam Museum has the URI "tag:wikitravel.org:en:discover:Rochester-Minnesota:Spam-Museum". Note that I don't use the URL of the linked page; that would make having multiple Discover items about the same destination confusing for RSS readers.
It works for all the existing discover items (I also scrape the archive, to get old stuff, too). The only things I can see being tricky are 1) if the discover item links more than one place on the same level of the geographical hierarchy, it uses the first one, which might not actually be the subject of the item, and 2) if the links or bold text are changed after the discover item is launched, it may change the unique URI, so RSS readers may show the same item to users twice. Probably not a huge deal, but worth noting.
In the future I hope to have a more formal way for defining RSS items; for now, I just wanted to get this ad hoc scraping into place, because I thought people would really like these items in an RSS feed. --Evan 13:59, 10 December 2006 (EST)
World's smallest capital
Regarding Melekeok in Palau, I don't think there's a capital of an independent state (flag, seat at the UN, the works) anywhere in world with a population of less than 381. The Vatican is bigger, and neither Nauru nor Tokelau has a designated capital at all. Jpatokal 13:50, 16 December 2006 (EST)
Tuvalu's Vaiaku comes pretty close with 516! -- but the WP article says that the entire atoll is the legal capital, so it actually has a whopping 4400 inhabitants. Jpatokal 13:54, 16 December 2006 (EST)
Ah. I hadn't seen mention of the "independent state" distinction, and our current OtBP is about the Pitcairn Islands, where most (all?) of the <50 inhabitants live in the capital, Adamstown. --Evan 13:56, 16 December 2006 (EST)
Given that Turkmen leader Niyazov died this week , I've moved the story about his mother farther down the list to the slush pile. If it's a good idea to have it feature this week, please feel free to reinstate it, but I thought it might be smart to reflect and discuss first. --Evan 23:54, 22 December 2006 (EST)
I was thinking about this too. I don't think too many people will be upset if we state the facts. Personally, I liked the golden boy statue trivium, but I think Jani removed it. Also, I've added "former" to his title since, well, he's no longer President-for-Life. -- Andrew H. (Sapphire) 00:05, 23 December 2006 (EST)
I was minorly concerned with respect for the dead, but also figured there might be some editorial changes to reflect that he's president-for-life no longer. --Evan 00:12, 23 December 2006 (EST)
Suggestion: "On hold" section
How about inserting an "On hold" section between the "Upcoming" and "Slush pile" sections for items which would be best featured at specific future dates - in other words, calendar-related items which are ready to go criteria-wise but are not quite ripe date-wise?
Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated in mid-April with a three-day nationwide water fight.
In Turkmenistan, the month of April and the word bread were renamed after the mother of former President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov.
...would both be worth putting "On hold" until April. ~ 220.127.116.11 03:08, 3 January 2007 (EST)
Sounds good to me as long as there are enough entries to allow some to be put on hold. WindHorse 11:42, 3 January 2007 (EST)
Maybe the best thing would be simply to rename the "Slush pile" list to be the "on hold" list. When we tried previously to have auxiliary lists for trivia connected with DotM or CotW articles, it didn't work well. Best to keep things simple and minimize the number of auxiliary lists. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 11:47, 3 January 2007 (EST)
I've moved the two example items to the bottom of the existing ==Slush pile== section with a brief note explaining why they are there - please review and revert or amend in whatever way you think it can be improved. ~ 18.104.22.168 12:32, 3 January 2007 (EST)
As Bill said, maybe the 'Slush pile' can be renamed 'On hold' - however it might need to be two tiered in order to distinguish between entries that have been temporarily rejected because the article from which they originated was not up to standard and those that are merely waiting to be slotted in at the appropriate time. WindHorse 22:26, 3 January 2007 (EST)
I've made the change; look at it and see what you think. It looks right to me, but I'm biased. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 12:10, 4 January 2007 (EST)
Looks fine too me - though I just wonder whether contributors check the page regularly enough for the 'calendar related' section to function efficiently - anyway let's give it a try. It can always be changed back. WindHorse 23:43, 4 January 2007 (EST)
A famous Icelandic culinary speciality is hákarl, consisting of cubes of putrified shark meat.
Wikipedia uses tiny little pictures to liven up "Did you know?", should we do the same? DiscoverBot will happily process images too if they're on the same line, although the main problem will be ensuring the correct alignment as the entry marches downwards — adding some logic to plug new pics on the top row should be enough. Jpatokal 11:48, 4 January 2007 (EST)
I think this could work, but things might get messy if more than one out of every three entires has a photo. Suggest trying it on the main page (maybe even move the giant spatula to the front of the line) to see if anything weird results. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 12:05, 4 January 2007 (EST)
I'll need to tweak the bot's code a little first. The easiest approach would just be to always keep one pic up top, and overwrite it when it finds a new one. The main problem will thus be the opposite: if there's no new pic in three days, it'll keep displaying the obsoleted one until it does find one... Jpatokal 12:26, 4 January 2007 (EST)
I've done a quick implementation of this now, so let's see if this works... Jpatokal 22:43, 21 January 2007 (EST)
Yikes. I hope this works with the RSS maker. --Evan 23:38, 21 January 2007 (EST)
Looks like it kinda works. Will keep testing... Jpatokal 01:34, 22 January 2007 (EST)
Man, this is tricky to get right (especially when you're too lazy to do it Right and build a state machine). Diked out one spurious source of newlines that was messing up things, so now almost there...? Jpatokal 04:05, 26 January 2007 (EST)
So I think the bot's pretty much doing what it was supposed to do now: only problem is, it's programmed to keep the image there until a new rolls along, which looks kinda stupid if the new one doesn't show up. Should I add in a hook to automagically make it disappear in three days if no new one comes along? Jpatokal 03:29, 28 January 2007 (EST)
That would be nice since a photo of a Buddisht gothic church doesn't have much to do with a golf course in Massachusetts, black beaches of Hawaii or Greenlandic Thai food. -- Andrew H. (Sapphire) 03:33, 28 January 2007 (EST)
I'm getting kinda bored of the 3 discovers currently displayed :) – cacahuatetalk 02:58, 28 May 2007 (EDT)
So the bot's finally back in action, and Bill just expressed a fear that we're going too far in the other direction -- that is, with daily updates, we'll soon run out. I think people will start putting more effort into Discover now that it's "online" again, and there's a fairly healthy queue at the moment (over a month), but if things start getting critical I can always reduce the update frequency. Jpatokal 01:57, 16 September 2007 (EDT)
It's down to 19 in the queue as I write, so I think depletion is a real concern. BTW, there's still a problem with outdated images not getting removed. -- Bill-on-the-Hill 00:56, 2 October 2007 (EDT)
I'm trying to stick one in every few days: three times that effort would mean that we'd break even. (My method is to scan Recent changes for usable+ articles, that way we get the benefit of highlighting comparitively new and/or active articles.) However, I won't be adding one every single day! Hypatia 00:58, 2 October 2007 (EDT)
The queue's still running kinda low. Should I reduce the update frequency to, say, twice or three times a week? Jpatokal 22:22, 26 October 2007 (EDT)
The bot (and StatScript) was down for a few days in protest at the code changes associated with Google Ads, but it should start running again tonight -- poke me if it doesn't. Jpatokal 08:34, 11 April 2008 (EDT)
After violent stabbing in the abdomen, it's updating again, but anonymously. Have I mentioned how much I hate Mediawiki? Jpatokal 13:02, 14 April 2008 (EDT)
After electroshock therapy, DiscoverBot has graciously agreed to remove the paper bag over its head and is now nymous again. Jpatokal 09:07, 1 August 2008 (EDT)
Want to know more about the Electricity in Japan, playing Golf in Scotland, Scuba diving, seeing the Northern Lights, Disabled travel or Soccer in Europe? With over 200 articles dedicated to individual travel related topics, Wikitravel travel topics might just be what you are looking for.
Err, this is not "strange but true trivia about destinations and events". Surely you can find some factoids in the articles in question? Jpatokal 09:08, 29 April 2008 (EDT)
Under Zimbabwean law, it is illegal to "hoard" more than Z$100 billion — or about one US dollar. ?
By the time that one reach the main page it will probably be outdated and people will be allowed to carry up to Z$1 trillion --Nick 13:14, 2 July 2008 (EDT)
No worries, it'll still only be worth one dollar. Jpatokal 06:23, 4 July 2008 (EDT)
DiscoverBot is not happy
Ole Disco's been having problems updating the template page recently: