a repository of mathematical know-how

Random articles on front page?

Random articles on front page?

Right now, the front page mostly consists of boilerplate, some top-level links, and some help files. Perhaps we could make it a bit more interesting? Wikipedia has a "featured article" section on its front page which works well, but this is probably too much effort to execute at this stage of the project. But perhaps a cheaper thing would be to have a box containing a randomly selected article (perhaps accompanied by its quick description)? This may help stop some parts of the wiki from becoming stale (right now, if an article is not attended to for a while, there's not much of a mechanism to bring it back to anyone's attention.)

While on this topic, perhaps some stats (e.g. number of visitors, number of articles, etc.) could be put somewhere on the front page also.

As a matter of fact, stats already exist (for visits to each page) and are visible by moderators. We were already thinking of extending this to all users – I'm not sure what Olof's latest thinking is about that. I too have been slightly anxious about the fact that when an article stops showing up under "Recent articles" there is a danger of its disappearing, and your idea of putting a random article there could be a good way of dealing with that. One could even imagine extending the principle to major nodes of the Tricki tree: for example, if one visited the group theory front page one could have a display of recent descendants of that article and a randomly selected descendant. That way, articles might come to the attention of the people most likely to want to improve them.

I could just go ahead and redesign the very front page, which I agree needs doing. (See also some of Matthew Emerton's comments in the "Content of front pages" forum topic.) And I think the main navigation page is slightly illogically organized as well. But it will probably involve fewer iterations if there is a bit of a discussion first. To get that going, here is a preliminary proposal, intended as a zeroth-order approximation.

1. Welcoming paragraph.
2. Links to various starting points for navigation, perhaps displayed down to a depth of two, and perhaps kept short using the hidden-text facility. (For instance, one could have the option of displaying subject area front pages without going to the page for that.)
3. Links to pages about the Tricki itself (i.e., the links that are there at the moment), or perhaps just a single link to a page entitled "About the Tricki", which could then have the links that are at the moment on the front page. Or perhaps one could have the current links but hidden until you click.

My main priorities conflict, so a balance has to be struck: I don't want the page to be too cluttered (and in particular don't want the reader to have to scroll down to find something important, or to find a link that they are likely to want to use very frequently), but I do want it to contain as much useful information as possible.

And then there is the question of additional features such as random articles, stats, etc. In general I'm in favour of them, but obviously there are limits to how much it is reasonable to put on a page. Incidentally, at the time of writing the number of visits to the main welcome page is 19172.

I'll welcome any input about this, and once a consensus seems to emerge I'll go ahead and do the reorganization.

Here's a related thought. As the Tricki grows, it will presumably become too big for any one person to hold in their head. Potentially, articles may be added too fast for the "recent articles" feature to be useful.

Many regulars will only want to be kept abreast of developments in a few subfields: I see myself as mostly contributing to group theory and topology, for instance. Is there any possibility of somehow making it possible to see all recent developments in a particular area? I don't quite know how this should work. Should each area have a "recent additions" page?

That's close to what I was proposing with my "Recent descendants" suggestion in the first paragraph, but not quite: the obvious way of implementing what you suggest is to use the area-of-mathematics tags.

Two more points about this. (i) At least for now, and this will probably be true for quite some time, you can get a good idea of what's been done in a given area by using the "Search by tags" facility: it won't tell you what the recent articles are in an area, but it will separate out areas and subareas for you. (ii) I think Olof has plans to make the Tricki customizable, so that you will be able to keep track of developments in your own area of interest. (But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice sometimes to see what had been done recently in other areas.)

(But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be nice sometimes to see what had been done recently in other areas.)

Of course! I suppose I see myself as using the Tricki with two different hats on: sometimes as a contributor, and sometimes as a user.

I think it would be quite nice to have some stats (for page visits) displayed, and am happy to enable that for everyone if people want it.

As Tim says, I do indeed have plans to make the site more customisable, the idea being that each user should be able to prioritise what content is shown to them depending on all the available criteria (such as having a particular area of mathematics tag or being a descendant of a particular article). I'd like to add a feature whereby one can 'subscribe' to articles, meaning that one would receive a notification (either on the site or by e-mail) whenever one of one's subscribed-to articles changes (content-wise or comment-wise). These things will take some time to implement, however.

I do like the idea of having a random article (or its quick description rather) displayed reasonably prominently. At the moment, one can use the 'Random article' to be taken to a random article on the site, but it's not quite the same thing.

Also, I think Tim's suggestion of having recent and random descendants features makes a lot of sense. It's a shame that we have such limited screen-space to play with, really. Perhaps the answer is to make all these features available and to allow each user to configure what they want to see. The blocks on the right-hand side could be collapsible, so that one can fit lots more on.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how we could fit the quick description for a random article into a box neatly on the front page, I'd be interested. Perhaps it could fit in after the welcoming paragraph in Tim's suggested remodelling (which, by the way, I think looks good, Tim). Or perhaps that would make things too cluttered. It could go in a block on the right, but then it'll push the other blocks down...