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Clean Up Your Wiki (No Soap Necessary)

Xean September 7, 2011 User blog:Xean
Before
I'm not a very organized person. Sometimes my room gets so messy that I can't find anything — I'll stand in the middle, searching through piles of stuff for one article of clothing. Eventually, I'll give up; the clutter keeps me from finding what I'm looking for.
After
Isn't it nice when everything is organized?

The same situation happens when users look for something specific on a messy wiki. They might search for a while, but they won't be able to find what they're looking for. Usually it's not because the information is missing, it's simply a case of wiki clutter.

If this sounds familiar, it's probably time for a clean-up operation on your wiki. Here are some common examples of wiki clutter and guidelines for tidying up your pages:

Get rid of red links

Red links are links that point to empty pages — if a user clicks on a red link, he or she will be prompted to create that page. You don't want to have too many red links; they can encourage editors to create new pages, but they can also frustrate users trying to navigate your wiki.

To see if there are any red links on your pages, check out Special:WantedPages. To the right of each link, you'll see (x links), which tells you how many pages point to the dead link. If you notice many links to a nonexistent page, either create the page or remove the link completely.

Embrace categories

In the same way that folders on your computer desktop organize files, categories organize information on your wiki. Every article and image on your wiki should be in at least one category. Tag articles and images with relevant categories, but don't overdo it — try to keep the number of categories to five or less.

Be sure to use subcategories when it makes sense. Be specific with category names and place subcategories into broader sections. For example, if your wiki is about a TV series, name one category "Episodes." You can now go one step further and create a subcategory like "Season 1 Episodes" in the larger "Episodes" category. Use discretion so that you're not creating confusing categories. Check your wiki's structure by visiting Special:CategoryTree — if it resembles something like a DNA model, scale it back.

You can also check Special:WantedCategories to keep track of pages with categories that don't exist. This indicates that you should either create the categories listed or remove them from your wiki.

To find out if there are any articles on your wiki that are not assigned to a category, check Special:UncategorizedPages.

Link out on dead-end pages

Dead-end pages are pages without any outgoing links; users that land on a dead-end page have a hard time navigating back to other pages on your wiki.

To fix dead-end pages, check Special:DeadendPages and work your way through the list, adding links to other pages on your wiki when appropriate.

Give orphaned pages a home

Orphaned pages are pages not linked to or from any other page on your wiki. These are often the most time consuming to fix. However, it's important to either remove orphaned pages or link out to them — orphaned pages are impossible to find otherwise.

Go to Special:LonelyPages to identify orphaned pages, then make an effort to link out to them on your wiki.

Avoid double redirects

A double redirect is a redirect page that points to another redirect page. This happens when a page is given a new name more than once. For example, if the page "Alice in Wonderland" is moved to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and then later moved to "Alice in Wonderland (Movie)," the original link would take you to the first redirect page instead of the desired destination.

Special:DoubleRedirects stores a record of each case and allows you to fix the redirects so that links and searches go to the appropriate page.

Lean on your community

Cleaning up your wiki is important, but it can be a lot for one person to tackle. Some wikis divide into teams to clean up messy pages, setting community goals and trusting that users will help whenever possible.

What does your wiki do to clean up clutter? Do you have any other suggestions for ways to keep a wiki tidy? Share your tips by leaving a comment below.

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