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Linkin mash

So I recently blogged about automatic descriptions based on Wikidata. And as nice as these APIs are, what could they be used for? You got it – demo time!

Linkin Park band member Dave Farrell has no article on English Wikipedia (only a redirect to Linkin Park, which is unhelpful). He does, however, have a Wikidata item with articles in 35 other languages. This is, essentially, the situation you get on smaller Wikipedias – lots of articles in other languages, just not in yours. There is information about the subject, but unless you can read any of those other languages, it’s closed to you.

On English Wikipedia, I created a template for this situation a while ago. Instead of a redlink, you specify the target and the Wikidata item, and you get the “normal” redlink, as well as links to Wikidata and Reasonator. An improvement, undoubtedly, but still rather clunky.

Thus, I resorted to something from the 90’s – a “mash-up” of multiple existing parts. A little bit of Wikipedia mobile view, my automatic description API, the Wikipedia API to render Wikitext as HTML, season with some JavaScript, and boom! we have a Wikipedia clone – with a twist. By default, this mash-up will happily display the Linkin Park article; however, under the “Band members” section (about the middle of the page), Dave Farrell now has just another, normal link:

Band section on Wikipedia

Band section on Wikipedia

Band section in the mash-up

Band section in the mash-up

The mash-up code recognized the code generated by the template on Wikipedia, and replaced it with a normal-looking, special link. Clicking on that “Dave Farrell” will lead to a live-generated page. It uses the automatic description API to get Wikitext plus infobox, then uses the Wikipedia API to render that as (mobile) HTML. And while the text is a little bit dull, it looks just like another Wikipedia page rendered through the mash-up, image and all.

I am well aware of the current limitations of this approach, including the potential deterrent to creating “proper” articles. However, with the much-hyped next billion internet users, many of them limited to the smaller Wikipedias, banging on our virtual door, such a mechanism could be a stop-gap measure to provide at least basic information in smaller languages, in a user-friendly way. Details of text generation for those languages, infoboxes, integration into Wikipedia proper, redlink markup, etc. would have to be worked out for this to happen.

Dave Farrell

Dave Farrell, as rendered by the mash-up

UPDATE: Aaaand… my template introduction has been reverted, effectively breaking the demo. I’m not going to start an edit war over this, you still have the screenshots.