Skip to content

Wikidata, or: Wikipedia, the other 60%

As Gerard has so eloquently described,¬†over 60% of Wikidata items have no corresponding article in the English Wikipedia; once we leave the “top five”, this exceeds 90%. The shoot-from-the-hip response would be: write more articles! While there is no issue in principle with this approach, it might not scale well, even with all our volunteers.

The next best thing, as Gerard describes, is to have labels (and maybe descriptions) for Wikidata items in all these languages. But that too takes time; how can we take advantage of the wealth of Wikidata in the mean time? You will, undoubtedly, be surprised (shocked, even!) to learn that I wrote some code in that regard. This is JavaScript which lives on English Wikipedia, but it could be used verbatim on all other Wikipedias. On the search results page, it starts a separate background search on Wikidata for your search term, and displays the results below the normal search results.

wdsearchThe search can find Wikidata items that match your query, even if no article exists on your current (here: English) Wikipedia. As this Wikidata search is performed across all languages, it can find matching items even if there is no label in your current language. This is handy for items that have the same or similar names across languages, for example, items about people. The example shows a search for “Alain Danilet” on the English Wikipedia. Not such article exists there, not even a mention. However, there exists a Wikidata item that has such a label in French (not in English, though). The item is found through the language-insensitive search, and displayed as a link (see the bottom of the screenshot). Also, another piece of JavaScript is used to generate an automatic description form statements in the current language. Furthermore, some parts of the description are linked to the relevant pages on the current Wikipedia.

Thus, you learn that Alain Danilet was a French politician, male, born in 1947, and died in 2012. Again, at the time of writing, this information does not exist on the English Wikipedia; there is no English label for this item on Wikidata; and there is no English description of him anywhere in the Wikiverse. In the current version, a small link labeled R gets you to the relevant Reasonator page, where you can find a picture of Monsieur Danilet, birth place, political party membership etc.

The code page contains brief instructions on how you can add this feature to your own Wikipedia experience, and make use of the long, long tail of Wikidata.