User:Popcornfud/The problem with disambiguation hatnotes

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    If you visit the article about the band Pink Floyd, the very first thing it says is:

    "The Tea Set" and "The T-Set" redirect here. For tea service, see tea set. For the Dutch band, see Tee-Set. For other uses, see T Set (disambiguation).

    This is a disambiguation hatnote. It's there because Pink Floyd performed under the name the Tea Set before they became famous. The idea is that you might have typed "The Tea Set" or "Tee-Set" into the Wikipedia search bar because you were looking for tea sets or the Dutch band, and not Pink Floyd, so this will help you find what you need.

    The problem[edit]

    If you typed "Pink Floyd" into the Wikipedia search box, you weren't looking for this. (Though I guess maybe you could have been looking for this.)

    There are two scenarios here.

    1) You typed "The Tea Set" or "Tee-Set" into the Wikipedia search bar because you were looking for tea sets or the Dutch band, and not Pink Floyd. Not to worry — this hatnote will help you find what you need.

    2) You arrived at the article by any other means – from Google, say, or a link from another Wikipedia article, or by typing "Pink Floyd" into the Wikipedia search box. In this case, you definitely weren't looking for information about tea sets or Dutch bands, and the hatnote serves no function. It's confusing (it looks like you've been redirected), it's distracting, and it takes up prime real estate right at the top of the article.

    The second scenario is overwhelmingly more likely than the first. And yet the article optimises for the first scenario, at the expense of everyone in the second. In my view, this isn't worth the trade-off.

    Are these notes interesting?[edit]

    Some editors have said disambiguation hatnotes like these have helped them discover other interesting articles. Gee, they think, I never knew there was a Dutch band called Tee-Set. I've learnt something today. Well, great. But:

    • That's not what these hatnotes are supposed to be for. They're for helping readers find the article they're looking for, not helping them discover new pages.
    • If helping readers discover interesting pages is the goal, disambiguation hatnotes are a terrible way of doing that. We use wikilinks, infoboxes, navigation templates and see-also sections for that instead.
    • In many – maybe most – cases, disambiguation hatnotes take readers to articles that have no relationship to the article subject whatsoever, beyond some superficial naming overlap. After all, tea sets having nothing to do with Pink Floyd. So you might as well argue we should begin every article with a link to some other random article, just in case it happens to be of interest. Hey – sometimes it will be, right?

    What should happen instead[edit]

    In an ideal world, a disambiguation hatnote should only be displayed when users arrive at article by searching for the term the hatnote disambiguates.

    For example, if the user searches for "Pink Floyd", they should get the Pink Floyd article with no disambiguation hatnote. But if they search for "The Tea Set", then they should get the Pink Floyd article with the hatnote.

    I don't know if this is actually technically possible. But I suspect it is, because Wikipedia knows when users have been redirected, and tells them. For example, go to The Tea Set and you're taken to the Pink Floyd article with the additional hatnote Redirected from The Tea Set. Perhaps, then, we can change redirect hatnotes to disambiguation hatnotes. If so, perhaps it might make sense for disambiguation hatnotes to be set up on the redirect pages, rather than the redirect targets.