Now that we've learned how to focus in on an article and turn out a decent one, let's expand our vision a little bit. The wiki has all kinds of tools for navigating. Some exist to help you, and some exist to help readers. Today we will learn how to utilize both.
Now that you're an accomplished wiki-editor, you should get in the habit of glancing at Recent Changes. This special page displays the most recent edits that have been done to the wiki. It is located at Special:RecentChanges. Go there now.
You'll immediately notice some things. First of all, there are different sorts of searches you can do. Play around with them if you'd like... look at the most recent 500 edits, instead of the default 50, for example. Recent Changes is one of the most useful on the wiki, because it lets you raise your head up and look around and what is going on, in general. Are there new articles? Is someone adding a lot of interesting new information? Is your political opponent making suspicious edits to your own page? All the recent edits show up on Recent Changes, and so it's one of the best places to be.
Each entry shows some specific information. Let's take a look. Here's an example:
(diff | hist) . . TATER; 11:03 . . (-126) . . KRI (Talk | contribs ) [rollback]
The first link, from "diff," goes to a special page that will show you how this edit changed its target. This can be very useful, rather than trying to figure out just exactly how someone changed a page.
The second link, "hist," goes to that page's history. There, you can see all the past revisions of a page. You can even click on the date on one of those past revisions, and take a look at what the page used to look like. Sometimes the difference is amazing: this is what TalossaWiki's main page looked like on 1 Jun 2012, for example.
The next link shows the page name, of course. After that is the date the edit was made, and then the change in the number of characters in the page. In this case, the page edit subtracted 126 characters from the page. It's impossible to know what really means - it might be a single sentence or it might be the fixing of forty typos - but it does give you a quick guess at the scope of the edit.
After that, you can see "KRI" comes next. That might seem mysterious, but if you've looked at the live Recent Changes page, you've probably already figured out that this is a username of the person who made the edit. After his name are links to visit his talk page (if you want to chat) and a list of his contributions (if you want to see what he's doing).
Finally, there's a link to "rollback." This link isn't particularly useful to us, since it's a quick way to undo all the changes a person has made to that page. On wikis like Wikipedia, it lets volunteers who scour Recent Changes easily undo vandalism, "rolling back" all the silly edits made by teenage boys ("Winston Churchill was a HHAHA BUTTS BUTTS BUTTS"). TalossaWiki has no vandals, of course, because only Citizens can edit here. So you should never need this button.
So that's Recent Changes! Amazing!
There are probably some pages that are particularly important to you. If you are the head of the Talossan Association of Tuber Enjoyment and Revival, for example, you'll want to keep a close eye on the TATER page in case someone accidentally adds some wrong information. To keep track of pages that you particularly like, try using your watchlist. You can find it by going to the top right of your screen, where it says "My watchlist." Go there now.
This page shows you all recent edits made only to a selection of pages that you choose. Right now, it's probably empty. Let's add something. Go to TATER, and look at the tabs at the top-right of the page. Next to "Read," "Edit," and "View History" is a dropdown box. Click on it, and choose "Watch." Poof! Now TATER has been added to your watchlist. If you go to "My watchlist" (also accessible at Special:Watchlist) then you should see an entry for that page, with the most recent edit. Wow!
If Recent Changes doesn't show anything interesting, though, and none of your watched articles need attention, then how can you help the wiki? Luckily, the wiki itself automatically generates lists to tell you things that need fixing. Let's go look at some of these lists. Click on "Special pages," to the left.
You'll see a cluttered page with a lot of things. You might want to come back here and explore, later. For now, look at the top section, "Maintenance reports." All of these are special pages created by the wiki to tell you about things that might need maintenance. Let's look at some particular ones now.
- Dead-end pages, on the other hand, is very useful. It gives you a list of pages that don't link to anything else on the wiki. That's a bad thing, because wikis are most naturally navigated by clicking on links, rather than by cumbersome searches. Every page should have some links to other content, to make it easier for the reader. These pages don't. So one thing you could do to help would be to go to these pages and "wikify" them - add brackets around some things like "Seneschal" or "Chancery" to link to those respective articles.
- Orphaned pages is a list of pages that have no incoming links. It's the counterpart to "dead-end pages," above, only this time the problem is that there's no way to even get to these pages - nothing links to them at all! The only way someone could find them would be if they searched for the title. This is very much unwanted. To help, you can find topics that relate to these pages and add a link to them.
- Wanted pages is a list of the pages that the wiki needs but doesn't have, sorted by the number of links going to the nonexistent page. So if a page is listed as having "9 links," that means that nine other pages on the wiki link to it - even though it doesn't yet exist! It's a big help to create these pages, because clearly they're important.
Sometimes a page on "Wanted pages" is just a different title for a page that actually already exists. For example, if you see that the link Seneschals is red, you might be surprised! But don't worry, we have a page on the Seneschal. Rather than making another article, or tracking down all of the wrong links, the best thing to do is just make a redirect. To do that, you create a page that consists only of this code:
#REDIRECT [[Seneschal]]. Now, just like magic, anyone who clicks on the link to Seneschals will be sent straight on to Seneschal!
There can sometimes be problems, of course. If you look back at the "Maintenance pages" under "Special pages," you can see that there are two special pages about redirects:
- Broken redirects are redirects that are supposed to point editors to another page, but a typo or some other problem means that they point to a page that doesn't exist. Ideally, this list should always be empty. If something is on this list, investigate where the link is supposed to go, and point it to the right place by editing the page.
- Double redirects are not as bad, but a little sloppy. These are when a page redirects to one target, which in turn redirects to a third target. This page should also be empty, and is easy to fix. Just make sure that the first pages points its redirect at the third target, rather than the second. If the "Hare" page redirects to "Rabbits" which redirects to "Rabbit," then just change it so that "Hare" redirects straight to "Rabbit."
We've learned about how to fix various sorts of broken links around the wiki. This is good, because people often navigate around by clicking on links in articles. But there's another way to navigate or to find information on a wiki: using categories.
A category is a special sort of tag you can put on a page that classifies it into a specified group. For example, you'll notice that this page has a little section on the bottom saying "Category:Instruction." That's because this page, and other ones we've looked at in this class, are all categorized as being instructional pages. This has been done so that it's easier to find them - if you just click on that link at the bottom, it takes you to the category page. Try it now. All the pages in the category are listed there.
Categories can contain just a few pages, like the "Instruction" category you just saw. Or they can contain a lot of pages, like Category:Political parties. You can even categorize images, to easily sort out all the images of a certain type. All flag images, for example, are in Category:Flags.
The process of putting something in a category is very simple: you just add
[[Category:desiredcategory]] to a page. You can put it anywhere on the page, because it won't actually be displayed to a reader - the wiki software will spot it and just do the classification for you. Pages can be in any number of categories, but you should only create a category if there will be more than a couple of pages to go in it. An empty category serves no purpose!
If you're putting a page into a new category, then the wiki will do it without a problem, but the category link at the bottom of the page will be a redlink. So it's a good idea to take a moment, click on that redlink, and enter a brief description of the category contents. You can edit and save a category page just like any other page.
Sometimes you may want to put one category inside of another - a subcategory. For example, the category Category:Images owned by the Kingdom of Talossa is a subcategory of Category:Images. If you go to Category:Images, then you can see that there are several sorts of categories of images to look at. This is very useful for navigation.
You can even add a page to a subcategory and the main category. You can see an example of this when you look at our two pages again: Example and TATER. Example belongs to the category Category:Example pages only, which is a subcategory of Category:Instruction. But TATER is in both Category:Example pages and Category:Instruction.
Occasionally, you won't want a category to list your page in strict alphabetical order. This is ordinarily the case with the names of people, which should be listed by last name, not first name. For these instances, you can just list on category tag the way you want the page to be sorted.
For example, the page Ián von Metáiriâ is in the category Category:Former Seneschals. But because we want his page listed under "M" on the category page, we have to adjust his page's category tag. If you click "Edit" on his page, you can see how it's done:
[[Category:Former Seneschals|Metáiriâ, Ián von]]. It's just another use of that clever pipe!
If we combine what we just learned with the first lesson, we now realize that there are a few good rules to remember when creating an article:
- The first bit of the article should be a brief summary of the subject, with the first use of the article's subject in bold.
- Every article should have links going to other parts of the wiki, and every article should have links bringing people into it. No dead-ends or orphans!
- Every article should be in some category. When in doubt, just make it a broad category from among those that already exit, like Category:Culture or Category:History.
You've really picked up some skills, now! And even better, you can now see a lot more of what goes on behind the scenes. If you keep an eye on Recent Changes, you can see the edits that more experienced editors are making, and you can learn more clever tricks and different kinds of code.