Page MenuHomePhabricator

Reconsider the Wikidata short description workflow
Open, Needs TriagePublic


There have been multiple requests to enable local short descriptions on various WMF wikis and at the time of this writing, with the except of enwiki and testwiki, it is not enabled anywhere (through there is the possibility of it being enabled on German Wikipedia at some point, see T279829).

After reviewing some of these discussions, I have come to the conclusion that there is a design flaw in the extension's workflow that is the root cause of some of the contentious discussions about this extension. I am going to be bold and make a proposal here in good faith.

Preliminary Analysis

One one hand, we would like to have a short description about every item in Wikidata in as many languages as possible. Many of these items are linked to Wikipedia articles, so it appears logical that this relationship should be utilized; hence the idea that once we display the short descriptions on top of the corresponding Wikipedia article in the corresponding language, then the editors of that Wikipedia would be incentivized to edit the descriptions on Wikidata. Presumably, this will result in killing two birds with one stone; those editors' edits will not only improve the way articles are shown on that Wikipedia (particularly on mobile devices, in which short description is displayed prominently) but will also enrich Wikidata.

But there is the catch: Wikipedia editors are not necessarily interested in also editing Wikidata. They don't want to leave the website; they don't want to have another set of pages to monitor for vandalism; they don't want to log in twice as many times; they want everything to be in one place.

Compare the design of the Wikidata short description workflow with the workflow used for managing interwiki links. You can do the latter all from within a Wikipedia, without having to leave the Wikipedia article page. In contrast, there is no way to edit the Wikidata short description from within Wikipedia, barring allowing local descriptions to override those in Wikidata. And if the goal is to prevent Wikidata vandalism from showing up on Wikipedia, then the community will prefer to fully override Wikidata (as is the case in English Wikipedia, and the expectation in German Wikipedia per T279829). This means what the local community finds most maintainable will be contradictory to the original goal of "enriching Wikidata".

Another aspect of the workflow that is problematic is whether the wikis can control which short descriptions are editable. When maintained locally through the use of magic word, the wikis have the added ability to protect that page, thereby stopping vandalism in short descriptions of select articles. But when maintained centrally at Wikidata, local sysops lose that control. Most local sysops are not Wikidata sysops, so they cannot protect a Wikidata item. They could report vandalism on Wikidata and request for the item to be protected, but from a usability perspective, that is several additional clicks and includes departing Wikipedia for a different project. This is clearly undesirable.


  1. Revamp the code that is used to display Wikidata short descriptions on Wikipedia pages in such way that users can edit short descriptions from within the Wikipedia page, without having to ever visit Wikidata (i.e. similar to the workflow used for interwiki links).
  2. Particuarly ensure that the new workflow works easily on mobile devices; desktop users often don't even see the short descriptions on Wikipedia, so would not notice vandalism in it.
  3. Through the use of a JS gadget that is enabled on all wikis, make it easy for users with "patrol" right to report vandalism of short descriptions on Wikidata without leaving Wikipedia. Imagine a "report vandalism" link that appears next to the short description on Wikipedia, which one could click on if they notice that the short description is being vandalized, thereby informing Wikidata admins to take action on it.

See also: T282170: Move "Short Descriptions" feature outside of main Wikibase.git code for code stewardship issues