Wikispooks:Style Guide

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The golden rule of writing is to keep the reader in mind. On the internet, this is easier said than done, since the reader could be anybody. As this is a wiki, feel free to experiment and try a variety of ways to get your points across. The below guidelines which should help keep your contributions focused and in alignment with the general direction of Wikispooks.

Collaborate

Remember that this is a wiki, so be courteous and be aware that other editors will edit your contributions. Be ready to return the favour by developing articles which others are working on as the mood takes you, dropping in a link to another article or giving some extra piece of information. All of us are smarter than any of us, and it's always encouraging to see ones work improved upon by fellow editors. Don't get hung up on matters technical - if you need help with syntax, just ask and someone will pitch in to advise or improve your work. Critical thinking and assembling of information is more important than presentation.

Avoid Repetition

Repeating material from elsewhere on the web is a fast way to add content, but Wikispooks has a strong preference for quality over quantity. Material which has been lifted from elsewhere is off-putting to serious researchers who will recognize it from their earlier research. Repeating chunks of material from one Wikispooks page elsewhere on the site is not only off-putting but also confusing. Instead, think which page the material most logically belongs on and link there from other pages, perhaps using Template:FA, generally but not exclusively at the top of a subsection. Wikipedia is a good source, but has its problems, so be selective in how you import from Wikipedia. Linking to material often makes for a more readable article than repeating it.

Encyclopedic Style

If you're a regular Wikipedia user, you're probably already familiar with encyclopedic style, which applies to all the main: pages (though not the Talk: pages). No use is made of the first or second person ("I", "We" or "You"), content is clearly introduced and structured with well chosen headings and subheadings to help readers quickly locate material of interest, text is written in a flowing style for the sake of those readers who wish , to read a whole page at a time and important information is cited to help readers locate sources for more in depth study.

Names

Full article: WikiSpooks:Standardisation

English has considerable flexibility which it is expeditious to curtail, particularly as regards names of pages, if links are to work correctly. Pagenames should be in the singular (False flag, not False flags). Unless needed to avoid ambiguity, names of people should be devoid of a title (so Muammar Gaddafi, not Colonel Gaddafi).

Some pages, such as the "war on terror" have double quotes around the title (set by the |so_called parameter, and generally used to recommend circumspection as regards a deceitful turn of phrase) - in this case, the phrase should not generally by used without the " characters (except inside direct quotations).

References

Citing your sources is an essential way to help readers estimate the creditworthiness or otherwise of an article, so is highly recommended. If an article has references, it will need a section (generally the very last) entitled References - this should have two equals signs (==References==).

Headings and sub-headings

Headings and sub-headings are used to break up the article into sections and to help readers navigate to the content they seek. Where more than one such headings exist, the software automatically builds a table of contents at the top of the page. Like newspaper headlines, the best headings should tell a very brief story in themselves, and should be as clear as possible. There are no hard and fast rules for how to break a subject down into sections, though too many top level sections is confusing - try to aim for not more than about seven or eight, including references and any other automatically generated sections. Chronological order is often useful. Reading existing pages is probably the best way to get a feel for how to do it.

Links

Hyperlinks are easy to insert (just use pairs of square brackets) and their wide use is encouraged. Most important to hyperlink are words or phrases which the reader is likely to want to know more about. This will typically include names of people, groups, ideas etc. Note however that creating 'circular' links (i.e. links that transition back to the page they came from) leaders to a disappointing user experience, so is not encouraged.

Avoid wikilinks in headings - instead either use the first such mention in the text below, or else use Template:FA just below the section heading. Do try to avoid links that are forwarded back to the same page, since they just waste the readers' time. Also remember that you needn't link in every occurrence of a word or phrase. Linking in the first is the most important (since readers will generally read the page from top to bottom and will probably want to click the first time they come to a particular link). Hyperlinking important words more than once is OK, especially for long pages, but use common sense - multiple links in the same paragraph, for example, would be redundant, and hence distracting since the user only wants to be presented with relevant links.

External links in article text are not recommended. If you wish to make an inline links to an external page, this is a sign that the subject is germane to Wikispooks, so just make a new link. External links are of course highly recommended for citing sources, but these should be in a <ref> tag.

Ledes

Each page should have an opening paragraph (a lede) which gives an overview of the suject. This should in the first sentence repeat the title of the page (and other alternate names of similar importance) in bold. Some people or groups have pseudonyms or other alternate names. In this case, these should also be listed in bold (often in the first sentence) and redirects from them should be created that point to this page.

Clarity

Each page should be a clear, stand alone, item. You can assume an interest in but not necessarily prior knowledge of a topic. Also do not assume that the reader has visited (or will visit) any particular references. Be careful to explain technical terms before you use them, linking to a full article elsewhere if available. Generally, avoid the passive voice, but sometimes you may not know the subject, in which case you can use the Template:By whom to highlight the fact that important information is missing.

Relevance

Being a good editor means knowing what to leave out as well as what to put into an article; all material you include should have a clear bearing upon the topic. For example, a letter from person P1 to person P2 that was written in year Y, lead to event E, was about topic T and exemplified phenomenon Q, might be worth a mention on any or all of pages P1, P2, Y, E, T and Q, but this is about the limit - even a reference to it elsewhere would probably be irrelevant and therefore not wanted.

Emphasis

Sometimes you may wish to emphasise a particular word or phrase. Italics are a good way to convey emphasis. Bold is usually best avoided in ordinary text, as it attracts too much attention (though for this reason it is used for the pagename in the lede). BLOCK CAPITALS, or <big> - AKIN TO SHOUTING - ARE NOT CONDUCIVE TO A PRODUCTIVE DEBATE. Many of the topics on Wikispooks are matters of life and death, about which very strong feelings are to be expected. Nevertheless, please seek out well chosen words to express yourself, rather than resorting to formatting, which has a rapidly diminishing rate of returns.

Focus

The ideal page (and page section) remains focused on its title; while content inevitably touches on a variety of topics, it should be carefully created for a readership primarily interested in the title of the page. If a section gets overly long, consider whether it can naturally be divided up into sub-sections. If a page gets over long, consider moving a larger section or two to its own page, replacing it with a few lines to summarize the material moved, and use template:FA to point to the new page.

Article length

There are no hard and fast rules about article length, but a set of shorter hyperlinked articles is generally more useful than one very long article. Wikipedia has a good page on article size. In particular, extended quotes from documents are not suitable for WikiSpooks articles, which are intended to be a synthesis of multiple opinions.

There is no restriction on article size for pages in the document: namespace, so best practice for referencing documents is to post the original in its entirety as a document, then attach it to the article using SMW. To do this, include the complete (case-sensitive) article name on the list of that document's subjects.

Humour

Humour, especially in images, does have a place on this website. However, editors should remember that, as a website, the site has international reach, and that concepts of humour vary widely. As usual, try to maintain the existing look and feel of the the site. If in doubt, lean towards an understated, dry style of humour.

Quotations

Short quotes (from one word up to a lines or two) can be a great way to add tone and give voice to an article. In this case, the simplest way is use of normal ASCII double quotes ("..."). Where the quote itself includes such marks, you may wish to use the alternative slanting quotes (“...”) and/or single quotes ('...') for clarity. Extensive quotes of more than a couple of lines are sometimes useful, in which case use one of the two available Quotation Templates. If you see material quote seems like a quote (for example, if it uses the first person, or context dependent words such as 'today', 'here' etc.) you can flag this problem with Template:Uncertain origin.

Redirects

These are a useful way to deal with different names for the same page, so, for example, "Limited Hangout" redirects to "Limited hangout". They also facilitate gradual expansion of the encyclopaedia, so, for example, "Modified limited hangout" has no separate page (yet) so it currently redirects to "Limited hangout". It is good style to redirect to the specific page section ("Limited hangout#Modified limited hangout").

Wikispooks Specifics

While it has plenty of similarities with Wikipedia, WikiSpooks also has differences. The most significant is its scepticism towards is the official narratives promoted by the institutions of the powers that be such as the commercially-controlled media.

"Official narrative"

Many deep political topics have a single official narrative which is widely promulgated through commercially-controlled media such as newspapers, TV and hence Wikipedia. This typically includes a set of correct and widely agreed facts and is a departure point for many who are trying to dig deeper, it is often a good starting point for a page. So, while extensive narration of the official narrative is unwanted, it is often good style to have an "Official Narrative" subsection as the first section of a page which briefly summarises the story promoted by the establishment. This often has a subsection "Problems" which outline some of its shortcomings that are discussed in more detail in the article.

"See also", "External links"

Although many pages in Wikispooks have a "see also" or "External links" section, these are usually the older, poorly maintained sections. Since the upgrade to SMW technology, it is much preferred to avoid this section and instead use appropriate SMW-based methods (e.g. Template:SMWDocs) to link in relevant material. Where a subject is linked in from the text, it is generally better not to add a separate listing under "See also" since this unnecessarily lengthens pages. Where a 3rd party text is important, it is usually better style to cite it as a reference so it appears in the references section. "See also" sections may be helpful in exceptional cases, but other methods of linking in documents are generally to be preferred.

Original Documents

Full article: WikiSpooks:Document Editing Rules

Sometimes, you will find a document which would be good to include in its entirety on the site. Copying to Wikispooks is preferred to linking if there is a chance that the link could go dead or be changed (e.g. news stories from commercially-controlled media sources which are sanitized because they accidentally let something slip) or maybe because the original is not yet on WWW (e.g. it is a scan of hardcopy). In this case, post it to a page in the "document:" namespace so it is preserved in its original form.

Name description
(Main) This is for ordinary pages, it is not shown
Talk Every main page has an accompanying 'talk' page, for discussions about the page content.
Document For text documents. The content should not be edited.
File For posting other files, such as images or PDFs.
Wikispooks For pages about this project (such as this one). Note that the alias "Project" should be used in preference for greater portability.
Help For help about the software used.
User Every user has their own page which they can use, for example, to introduce themselves

Namespaces

Full article: Help:Namespaces

The Mediawiki software which runs Wikispooks organises the material into separate sections, called 'namespaces'. This page, WikiSpooks:Style guide for example, is in the "WikiSpooks:" namespace, used for pages which are about this project. There are a couple of dozen namespaces, but most are not so important. The most important ones are:

Templates

Full article: Wikispooks:Templates

The template: namespace is for short programs which make some of the page for you. To invoke them, begin "{{" and end "}}". For example, the "Full article: Project:Templates" link just above is created by Template:FA, and it the result of the template call: "{{FA|Wikispooks:Templates}}". To see all the available templates, see the templates category.

Quotation Templates

There are two ways of marking up blocks of quotations. The simplest is template:QB which makes a "Quote Block" - i.e. draws a box and centers the text. For more important quotes it is better practice to use template:SMWQ ("Semantic Media Wiki Quote") since this combines the appearance of QB with semantic data, so that the quote can appear on other pages in the same way that Documents do.

Where To Start?

Full article: WikiSpooks:To Do

WikiSpooks is a big project and there is quite a lot going on. The 'To Do' section details a number of ways that it is easy to get started. If you begin a new page, you should probably use Template:Stub until it reaches about five lines of text. It is helpful to create a page which offers even one item of important information (or reference) unavailable on Wikipedia.

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  • Style Guide







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