Module 7 notes
Module 7 Introduction
When working with a large amount of information, and especially when many contributors are collaborating,
it is important to employ one or more mechanisms that provide a framework to hold and interconnect the
pieces of information. When organized as a collection of articles, the information forms a useful resource. A
framework to organize such collections is described below.
In this module we will examine the mechanisms available in MediaWiki:
o search, for finding articles in a flat space of names;
o internal links, for referencing articles on related topics;
o categories, for grouping articles on similar topics;
o subpages, for organizing related articles on one topic;
o disambiguation pages, for distinguishing articles with similar or identical names;
o redirects, for associating multiple names with one article.
More specifically, by the end of the module, you will be able to:
o create links between wiki articles;
o classify articles by placing them into categories;
o contrast how HTTP and wikis differ in their handling of links to non-existent pages.
o choose appropriate organizational mechanisms to use in MediaWiki;
o create a redirect;
o create a disambiguation page;
o rename an article.
The material in this unit is augmented by Chapters 5 and 6 in MediaWiki (pages 75-106), which you should
7.0 Organizing Wiki Pages
In the last two modules you’ve learned how to create Web pages and wiki articles and how to make them
available to others. As Web and wiki sites grow in size, however, it becomes increasingly important to place
the articles into suitable structures. In this module, we’ll look closer at how articles can be organized to
improve maintainability and access. 7.1 Searching for Wiki Articles
An article in a wiki is accessed by its name. That is, the URI for an article is composed of the URI for the wiki
followed by the article’s name. For example, to find an article about Waterloo, you could type in the URI of
the wiki (e.g., https://www.student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cs100/wiki/) followed by the name of the article
(i.e., the full URI for the article would be https://www.student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cs100/wiki/Waterloo).
Unfortunately, if you don’t know the article’s name, this won’t work.
The problem of discovering the exact URI for an article arose immediately after the creation of the Web.
Much like finding someone’s phone number or address, we need to look up the name we wish to find in a
directory, but on the Web, we don’t need to scan the directory ourselves ¾ the computer can do the search
for us. In fact, you have likely used a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing to find Web pages, and
starting next week, we will examine in detail how these search engines work.
MediaWiki provides a simple search box to find articles, saving you from guessing one name after another. If
you open the wiki and type the name of the article you want in the search box (and you press enter or return
or click on go), you will be taken to the article with that name if it exists or MediaWiki will show you a list of
articles with similar names or with similar contents. It is good practice to use this method to find articles so
that you don’t erroneously create a new article that duplicates (some of the) information that already exists
under a slightly different name.
Because this method of navigating a wiki can be quite limited, several other methods are provided to help
you locate the pages you want.
7.2 Using Sections and Subpages
Complex articles benefit from subdividing the text into sections and subsections. This is accomplished
through the use of headings, just as is done on webpages outside wikis. If at least three headings are used,
then MediaWiki automatically produces a table of contents for the headings, with links to each section’s
heading, and places it by default just before the first heading.
Occasionally it is better to subdivide an article into several, separate ones. The parts of an article might be
independent enough to stand on their own as separately named articles, but an alternative is to create
subpages for an article, much like you would create subpages of an HTML page (e.g., Sparky’s subpages
under Jane Smith’s homepage). In fact, you already created a wiki subpage when creating a sandbox page
under your user page.
For example, if you are working on an article about CS 100, you might wish to create subpages for the
material taught in each module. In this case, the description of an individual module might not stand well on
its own. Instead of naming the articles Module1, Module2, etc. (which will not be meaningful names to others using your wiki) or naming them UW’s CS 100 Module1, UW’s CS 100 Module2, etc., the subpage
mechanism provides a convenient way to tie those articles together with their over-arching articles. For
example, you might create an article named UW_courses, a subpage for UW_courses/CS_100, and subpages
for that article named UW_courses/CS_100/Module1, etc.
7.3 Using Links
7.3.1 Internal links
One of the strengths of using wikis is the ability to link articles to form a rich network of pages. Wiki links
may be internal, referencing other articles on the wiki, or they may be external, using HTTP to address
webpages outside the wiki.
Internal links are indicated by surrounding text with double square brackets. For example, the markup
creates a link to an article having the name Course_tutors and it displays the link using the label Course
tutors. Note the roles of the space and the underscore characters: spaces in a link reference correspond to
underscores in an article’s title.
To simplify the naming of articles and the creation of readable label text, the first letter in a link is case-
insensitive; that is, the links [[University]] and [[university]] refer to the same article. Thus, the wikitext
[[University]] management is led by the [[president]] of the [[university]].
produces the string “University management is led by the president of the university.” where the first and
third links are to the same article. Similarly, the wikitext
See your [[course tutors]] for additional help.
produces the string “See your course tutors for additional help.” and references the article
Internal links can also be created directly to any section of an article by specifying the heading after a
number sign in the link. Thus [[UW]] is a reference to the article entitled UW and [[UW#Faculties]] is a
reference to the Faculties section of the UW article.
MediaWiki automatically creates and inserts a link from a subpage to its superpage when the subpage is
created, but you must manually insert the links you wish to see from a page to its subpages. If you want to use a label that is not identical to the article’s title, you can specify the label after a pipe (|)
in the link’s reference. For example,[[Instructional Assistants | IAs]] links to the page with the
title Instructional_Assistants but displays the label IAs for the link. Similarly,[[User:JaneSmith | Jane
Smith]] links to Jane Smith’s User page, but displays the label Jane Smith for the link.
The embedded network of internal links in wikis is especially powerful because you can surround any piece
of text with double square brackets, and this automatically defines a link to an article, whether or not that
article has already been created on the wiki. When a reader clicks on a link, he or she is taken to the article
if it already exists (just like clicking on a link in any Web page). However, if the target of the link does not
exist, the reader is invited to create the article being referenced. This encourages contributors to provide
connections between articles and to identify potentially interesting articles that do not yet exist, which
spurs the growth of the wiki.
7.3.2 External links
External links refer to Web pages outside of the wiki. They are created by simply including a URI in the text
or by enclosing the URI in single square brackets and providing the label to be displayed explicitly. For
example, merely including the text
in wikitext causes an external link to that page to be created and displayed. Alternatively, including the text
[http://www.student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cs100/ CS 100 home]
creates a link to that same page but using the label CS 100 home. Notice two differences from internal links:
external links use only single square brackets, and they do not use a pipe to separate the URI from the label.
7.4 Categorizing Wiki Articles
Links form a convenient mechanism for browsing from article to article in a wiki, but it may still be difficult
to find related articles of interest. For example, if you’re reading an article about an HP Photosmart A640
printer, you might want to read about other manufacturers’ printers as well. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that
every article about one manufacturer’s printer will include links to every article about printers.
Furthermore, it would be difficult to maintain all the links within all those articles as new printers get
introduced in the market.
The solution in MediaWiki is to introduce categories, a mechanism to classify articles into groups and
produce index pages (containing links to all pages in that category) for those groups automatically.
Categories can be used to form a taxonomy or ontology, where concepts are placed in a hierarchical structure. For example, biological entities are organized into species, genus, family, order, class, phylum,
and kingdom. The relationship between one grouping and the next is based on generalization (a lion is an
animal in the species panthera leo in the genus panthera, which is in the family felidae), informally known
as an IS-A hierarchy. (In linguistics the more general term is called a hypernym and the less general term is
known as a hyponym.) Alternatively, anatomical entities are organized in a part-whole