Wiki Life: Why do we have See Also and Other Resources as separate sections of links?

The discussion started in this previous blog post:

Wiki Life: What do you put in the See Also section? Should every article have one?

Why have two separate sections of links? One for internal Wiki links (See Also) and one for external links not on Wiki (Other Resources).

This topic of debate started back in 2010 when we created the Wiki. It started with a thorough assessment of Wikipedia.

For example, let's look at one of my favorite articles on Wikipedia, Small Basic:

Let's pop to the bottom:

We have three different sections of links to other articles. That's navigational power!

First, we have a See Also section. It was so varied that I divided it into two parts: Related Microsoft technologies and Related languages. Why? Because they were mixed in the list, and it was weird. Looks like someone recently added Gambas. Interesting. I just clicked the link and learned about another language. Their navigational system already hooked me. =^)

They start with See Also, because it's the most important section to them. They want to keep people on their site!

After the See Also section, we have the References section. This is the second most important one of these three sections (to Wikipedia). Why? Because it's vital to maintain the credibility of the article. Where are the references? What's the proof that any of this is true? They spend a TON of time pushing on this point. Why? Because if they don't maintain credibility, then their whole system falls apart! How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, it's on Wikipedia. So it MUST be true! Hahahaha!" Right? And the first thing my university professors said was, "Wikipedia is not a source!" Well, they have to fight that thinking with every single sentence, every edit, and every statement put on their site! And the References sections are awesome! Back to the university example. Even though I couldn't use it as a source, I found it to be the fastest way to get to reference articles that I could use as a source! That helps prove the power of this section that Wikipedia maintains!

And specifically, what do you see when you look at the References on the Small Basic article?

You see links to all the official Microsoft MSDN Small Basic blog posts that tell the story of Small Basic! Oh, my goodness! Small Basic 1.1 is already on there! (Someone already added it in. I love the Community!) And yes, my name might be on a few of those blog posts.

So I'm already having fun with the References section as well!

Third, on Wikipedia, we have the "External links" section, underneath "See also" and References:

Hey, we should have the forum on there too. We'll see if we can get it added by someone in the community. Oh, and I noticed the "Principles of Programming" link is dead now too. I'll also let the community folks know.

This "External links" section is the least valuable to Wikipedia, but it's still very valuable and worth it to them to have it. But it takes people off their site and doesn't exist to uphold the structural integrity of the page. So they put the section at the bottom and don't put as much of a focus on building it out. (It still gets built out naturally, because the community is motivated to include the other links.)

So there you go! That's what we dug deep on back in 2010… how Wikipedia works and why. And also, they are the standard of wikis, so people are used to navigating their way. That was another thing we took into consideration.

And all Wikipedia's reasons for all three of those sections also exist for TechNet Wiki. We DO want our readers to stay on TechNet Wiki and see all the other great content there, to help edit it, and to help fill in the gaps by adding more content! So we want the See Also section to be first at the bottom of the section lists, and we want it to have some prominence! In order to do that, we agree with Wikipedia and think it should stand out and be its own section. Similarly, we want References and we want that called out and clear for the structural integrity!

A similar decision is that we followed a Wikipedia (and other wikis) standard by including a little arrow image where a hover tells you what's an external (non Wiki) link that will send you off the Wiki. That also adds to the concept that you can click around and navigate the Wiki effortlessly! And it makes it far clearer what's on the Wiki and what's off the Wiki.

Not everyone is going to agree with all the decisions like those ones we made and Wikipedia made.

In fact, one way we disagree with Wikipedia is what to call our External Links section… We thought "External Links" was too harsh. In fact, it's not true for us. What if the link goes to a TechNet blog or forum or an MSDN Library article? Is it truly external? That becomes debatable. Even "Links" seems harsh. Yes, they are links. But the "See Also" section isn't called "Internal Links." Why? That doesn't seem very enticing. We want the external links section to be as enticing as it actually is. So it's not just a list of links… it's a list of "Resources"! So that's why "Other Resources" was the winning name for that section.

We also disagreed with Wikipedia's capitalization of sections! They use "See also" with sentence casing. We use "See Also" with title casing. It might seem silly to think about such details, but I think our See Also section has a much better pop to it (aided in part with a better font and bigger H1 font size)!

So there you go. Lots of exploring and history to that one! Is it perfect? Maybe not. Will everyone agree with every single one of those decisions? Definitely not. Did we even agree with our own decisions? No. In fact, I think we changed the name of "Other Resources" quite a few times before we found that name to be the best balance.


Remember to Wiki While you Work! (Or after work)

   – Ninja Ed

Comments (9)

  1. Great explanation. I’m convinced.

  2. Me too! =^)

    I’m making some updates for grammar and clarity.

  3. Andy ONeill says:

    Great stuff.
    These sort of things need explaining so people understand they are a positive addition to their article rather than a hoop someone wants them to jump through.

  4. Saeid Hasani says:

    Thanks Ed for such a helpful post!
    So, I applied these guild lines to my two recent articles! 🙂

  5. Thanks, Andy! Yes, I think often without understanding the Why, it isn’t clear why anyone would want to help maintain the guidelines. It’s hard to support an unclear vision.


  6. Saeid, thank you for applying these guidelines! We’re going to need to find nice ways to encourage more people to apply this like you did!

  7. Great helpful article to write a better Wiki. Thanks Ed.

  8. anonymouscommenter says:

    I’m following up my earlier Thursday post: Council Spotlight – Who will be crowned the last TechNet

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