Wikipedia:Alert

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This essay, WP:Alert, lists many ways to get alerts, news, and answers about Wikipedia issues. Almost any question imaginable has already been answered by someone, at sometime, in Wikipedia's thousands of project-space pages (named as in "Wikipedia:xxxx").

Search below (using the browser menu "Find" option) for various details: about Wikipedia system news, about help pages, about surveys or polls, about wiki-technology & servers, about wiki-software updates, about Wikipedia size and users, about Contacting admins, or about MediaWiki markup language.

Related Wikipedia pages

WP:HELP – Wikipedia Help page
WP:HELLO – Wikipedia Introduction

WP:FAQ – Frequent questions
WP:Help desk – new questions

WP:MOS – Manual of Style

Wikipedia Project news[edit]

Many wiki-related news events are described, briefly, in part of the monthly WP:Signpost document, under subpages for "news and notes", such as:

WikipediaSignpostHead.svg
  WP:Wikipedia Signpost is the
  monthly newsletter.

Note that the publication dates vary, and the news is not updated every week, but rather every several days, with no definite schedule. Those pages are not part of Wikinews, which is instead about general world events.

Wikipedia technology and servers[edit]

The wiki-technology is described, briefly, in part of the monthly WP:Signpost document, under subpages for various publication dates, such as:

Topics include the computers used as wiki-servers plus the MediaWiki software that stores pages, processes templates, formats wikitables and displays the wiki-images.

Wikipedia MediaWiki software updates[edit]

The MediaWiki updates are described, in brief tech jargon, in part of the monthly WP:Signpost document, under subpages for various publication dates, such as:

Installed MediaWiki
version (live):

1.24wmf11 (f246dde)


version April 2012:
1.20wmf2 (a4ac665)
version Jan. 2011:
1.16wmf4 (r81334)

Each Technology_report lists bug fixes or changes, such as:

  • By 13-April-2009, wikisearch on MSIE had been fixed to list multiple search-results rather than go to the one named title.
  • And, URL qualifier "&action=purge" now works for image/file pages.

In January 2008 (over 6 years ago), the MediaWiki software was upgraded with a major change to the parser (which reads Wikipedia files) for faster formatting: the new software allows almost unlimited page-size, and huge templates, by using a recursive descent parser. Formerly, large templates could only be used a few hundred times per article, such as when a template contained the help-text documentation or several HTML comments. However, now any documentation text can be skipped by using "<noinclude>" at the sections to skip.

Wikipedia screen appearance[edit]

The Wikipedia articles, talk-pages and project pages are displayed as typical browser screen windows. However, they can be customized, for each user, such as setting the page-skin layout, by selecting "my preferences" at the top of any page. For example, consider the following options:

  • Go to page Special:Preferences (or click "my preferences")
  • In section "Appearance > Skin" select page layout, such as "MonoBook" to allow right-click buttons (default: Vector).
  • In section "Files" select Thumbnail size (120px - 300px).
  • In section "Date and time" select time format (or: No preference).
  • In "Advanced options" checkmark [x] "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary" to avoid accidental save of edit.
  • In "Advanced options" uncheckmark [_] "Show edit toolbar" for faster editing.
  • In "Recent changes > Display options" set Number of edits to show: 80 (default: 50).
  • In "Misc > Diffs" checkmark [x] "Do not show page content below diffs" to speed comparison of changes.
  • In "User interface gadgets: editing" checkmark [x] "Allow up to 50 more characters in each of your edit summaries" (works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera (browser).
  • At bottom section, click "SAVE" to save new preference settings.

There are many more options, depending on each user, which might be more beneficial for displaying some types of pages or images.

Wikipedia page-formatting problems[edit]

Sometimes, a Wikipedia page has unusual, garbled sections, or out-dated text, despite recent updates. A page can be forced to reformat when viewed in edit-preview, to see the latest text, images and templates on the live page. Also see: WP:Advanced article editing.

However, on rare occasions, a page's stored cache files simply need to be purged by appending "&action=purge" after the URL's "index.php" as follows:

That option forces the page to reconnect to image thumbnails or other data, which is typically the automatic result when pages are requested for reading. Purging the cache often works to re-display a page in current format, without the need to totally reformat the page using edit-preview.

Wikipedia style guides or manuals[edit]

The main manual is the "Wikipedia:Manual of Style" (WP:MOS), with another document describing typical article-format, under "WP:Guide to layout".

There are periodic updates, described (for 2 years) in update-news pages, such as:

Unless a month is already finished, the related update-news page, typically, will not exist yet, only after the month has ended. The main person writing update-news has been administrator Dank.

Wikipedia pages and file types[edit]

Wikipedia namespaces
Subject namespaces Talk namespaces
0 (Main/Article) Talk 1
2 User User talk 3
4 Wikipedia Wikipedia talk 5
6 File File talk 7
8 MediaWiki MediaWiki talk 9
10 Template Template talk 11
12 Help Help talk 13
14 Category Category talk 15
100 Portal Portal talk 101
108 Book Book talk 109
118 Draft Draft talk 119
446 Education Program Education Program talk 447
710 TimedText TimedText talk 711
828 Module Module talk 829
Virtual namespaces
-1 Special
-2 Media

Besides the 4.6 million article pages, there are more than 23 other types of pages stored within the English Wikipedia namespaces. The vast, remaining 28.7 million pages, stored in those other namespaces, include WP:templates, article-talk pages, user pages, user-talk pages, category pages, image/data file pages, help pages (prefix "Help:"), project pages (prefix "WP:"), summary pages, WP:Portal pages, and others (see table at right).

The most common pages are the articles, and their article-talk pages. There are strict rules for having template pages, so there are fewer of them, and even fewer of their template-talk pages. The many special-pages are for system information, such as login with Special:UserLogin, show a random page by Special:Random, set preferences by Special:Preferences, show a user's contributions by running Special:Contributions, or search other pages by Special:Prefixindex/xx, etc.

Wikipedia surveys and polls[edit]

A few surveys have been conducted over the past 6 years, for the English Wikipedia and the German Wikipedia, to determine reader opinions about WP content and performance. About wiki surveys:

Help pages[edit]

The Wikipedia help pages (at WP:HELP), which cover many wiki aspects, also link to the MediaWiki help pages (under META:HELP) about the underlying software and database servers that store the Wikipedia data. Also consider:

There are many thousands of other WP project pages to consider, as well.

Wikipedia as neophyte with uneven quality[edit]

Although the Wikipedia project has existed since 2001, many aspects have remained at a neophyte, or novice, level. The problems of uneven quality are critical to understand: there have been large gaps in Wikipedia's collaboration procedures, and in various fields of study, some major topics went years without being covered in an article. Some of the subjects which have lagged the most are: legal terms, financial topics, and African studies. While there are over 800,000 articles about sports, there might be only limited articles on other subjects.

Also, although some Wikipedia policies are very thorough, as written, many active users make decisions while still unaware of the actual policy details, and some imagine that Wikipedia "invents all rules" regardless of the real world. On the contrary, Wikipedia does, indeed, follow many mainstream ideas, and articles must be verifiable against the real-world sources. However, the neophyte aspects and uneven quality help to answer why Wikipedia has many hollow areas, either overlooked or purposely hindered by some users dodging policy controls (see WP:Gaming the system or WP:NOTCENSORED). Some aspects of Wikipedia might seem shocking due to those long-term neophyte issues. For example, per WP:CONSENSUS, a "consensus" is basically a unanimous decision (of users acting in good faith), but many people treat it as a majority rule (as "consens-Us-versus-Them").

Official policies and guidelines[edit]

There are many official Wikipedia policies and guidelines, so don't be surprised if long-term users are not familiar with all of them. Some people try to treat guidelines as being far inferior, to policies, but most guidelines have been developed by careful editors who are trying to provide solid advice, to simplify the writing of articles, while working with other users. The navbox below links to the various policies and guidelines.

New guidelines are sometimes created by expanding Wikipedia essays into broader, and more formalized wording.

Wikipedia size and users[edit]

Wikipedia size & users
Articles in English:  4,553,328
Articles in all WPs: 32,349,358
Average revisions: 21.8
Articles per day: +797*
Total wiki pages: 33,300,003
New pages per day: +8,109*
Total admins: 1,407
Total users: 21,752,795
New users per day: +6269*
UTC time: 17:10 on 2014-Jul-10
  * (English WP, since 2011 Aug 3)

The size of English Wikipedia and the user base is as follows:

  •   Articles: 4,553,328     Total users: 21,752,795.

The count of users is the registered users (not IP addresses).

Pages can access those size statistics by using specific variable-names[1] (see: mw:Help:Magic_words): for example, the total articles is {{NUMBEROFARTICLES}} and total-users is in the variable: {{NUMBEROFUSERS}}. For calculations, use the raw-data form ":R" (such as {{NUMBEROFARTICLES:R}}). Many other usage statistics can be listed by: Special:Statistics.

In early 2009, the user base increased at the rate of 8,900 new registered users per day (from 9,025,765 to 9,061,316 during February 23–27, 2009). On 2 July 2009, the total of registered users exceeded 10 million; on 29 March 2010, registered users should exceed 12 million. The new-user rate is currently: 6329 per day, computed hourly (current hour as 17).

The total number of articles (currently 4,553,328), in the English Wikipedia, was predicted to exceed 3 million by mid-August 2009 (actual date: 17Aug09) and exceed 3.5 million in December 2010 (date: 12Dec10). Since 1 January 2010, the new-article rate is currently: 854 per day, computed hourly (current hour: 17), with the rate typically 15% lower during the Spring months, but higher in August.

For detailed discussions of the size of Wikipedia, see the essay pages: WP:Size of Wikipedia, or WP:Modelling Wikipedia's growth, or WP:Modelling Wikipedia extended growth.

Reducing edit-conflicts[edit]

There are many methods to avoid edit-conflicts. For talk-page discussions, consider using menu option "New section" to cleanly append a new section to the talk-page. Years of tests have confirmed, even in 2012, that editing the bottom thread, to append a new section thread will still cause edit-conflict, against ongoing replies inside the prior thread. There is no "non-overlapped merge" of the prior section with the added bottom section as "==xxx==". Instead, editing to add a bottom thread is treated as a conflicting reply. Hence, use the menu option "New section" to reduce the common edit-conflicts at the bottom of a talk-page.

For article pages, users can request control of editing by saving a tag-template, when finishing an edit, to alert future readers:

  • {{inuse|25 minutes to fix footnotes}} – up to 3 hours.

However, realize the tag is only a request. Instead, if only 1 SAVE is made (by pre-combining all changes), then other editors will only be alerted to check that page when your entire edit is done. In the event of overlooked typos, it might be safer to visit another page for editing, and return after an hour when other users are done editing the page (they might also fix those typos). However, once a page is saved, other editors might update it every 3 minutes, because many will change a word and save, change a word & save, even though they know it's sloppy: the fear of losing multiple changes makes some people SAVE after every tiny change. Those people should learn to request control by {{inuse}}, even if only for 1 hour.  See essay: WP:Advanced article editing.

When a user tries to save an edit that a prior editor has meanwhile updated, the entire page is rejected, during "edit conflict". To avoid losing data, before a SAVE, the edit-buffer should be copied (Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C) into another window, or edit-previewed to save the back-window, and then parts of that text could be restored during a later re-edit. Also, editing just 1 section, at an "[edit]" tab, can reduce some types of edit-conflict.   See essay: WP:Pruning article revisions.

Seeing changes or new articles[edit]

The lists of changed articles or new articles are shown by:

Each list can contain several thousand articles.

Contacting admins about help, deletions, abuse[edit]

Generally, each admin should not be contacted directly, unless they request your input. Wikipedia has the help desk to answer most questions, beginning at WP:HELP or WP:FAQ. Some technical questions are answered by volunteers at the Village Pump branch WP:PUMPTECH, or policy questions at WP:VPP. New page deletions, requested by edit-tagging each page, are handled in several page-category queues linked by inserting, at the top of a new-article page, the template line "{{db|1=my reason for deletion}}". A user's private copy of an article can be delete-flagged, by that user, inserting the line "{{db-u1}}" at the top of a page. Older articles must be debated with other concerned users at: "Wikipedia:Articles for deletion". The queues for reporting abuse are explained, at each link below, in the following table of Wikipedia policy topics, focused around the active list in the Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard. Each type of problem has a separate noticeboard.

If multiple editors argue too much about some articles, the official ruling might not be a clear-cut decision of right/wrong, but instead, all of those editors might be banned from editing those articles for 6 months (or longer). Escalating a confrontation usually hurts the good guys the most, because their time is wasted as much as those who actively invent trouble. Avoiding the troublemakers tends to be a good method to reduce abuse.

Template coding and infoboxes[edit]

Wikipedia pages are written in the MediaWiki markup language, which supports some HTML coding, such as <span> or <table> tags, but which also allows special coding for wikitables, infoboxes, navboxes, and templates (see: HELP:Template or Help:A quick guide to templates).

Any page can contain live calculations using the parser-function "#expr" as follows:

{{#expr: 100 * 7 + 2*35 + 10-3 + 1/7 round 2}}

The expression will be evaluated and displayed on the page. As of February 2011, local variables are still not allowed: {{#expr: x=42}} is invalid (Error: Unrecognised word "x"), although local variables would be trivial to implement for a college student.

For more about the MediaWiki markup language, such as catching invalid calculations (with #iferror) or using other if-statements, see: mw:Help:ParserFunctions. The if-test functions include:

  • The if-expr-test: {{#ifexpr: {{{x}}}+9 > 12|over 12|else not over 12}}
  • The if-equal-test: {{#ifeq: {{{x|0}}}|5|is 5|else not 5}}

Some of the 20 parser functions can format commas, pad to align, or convert lowercase:

  • Format a number (add commas):   {{formatnum:15650.60}} ==> 15,650.60
  • Unformat a number (w/o commas): {{formatnum:15,650.60|R}} ==> 15650.60
  • Unformat a number (w/o commas): {{formatnum:35,0px|R}} ==> 350px
  • Left-pad an item (width & character "0"):     {{padleft:156|7|0}} ==> 0000156
  • Right-pad an item (width & text "xy"):  {{padright:ABF|8|xy}} ==> ABFxyxyx
  • Pad both ends:   {{padright:{{padleft:37.4|6|x}}|8|0}} ==> xx37.400
  • Pad dots: {{padright:{{padleft:37.4|8|.....}}|10|0}} ==> ....37.400
  • Format text with first character as uppercase: {{ucfirst:yes}} ==> Yes
  • Format text with first character as lowercase: {{lcfirst:UseLess}} ==> useLess
  • Format text as all lowercase: {{lc:New yorK CITY}} ==> new york city

The web functions include:

  • Encode a web URL string: {{urlencode:www.goo/search="xx yy"}} ==>
          www.goo%2Fsearch%3D%22xx+yy%22

The nesting of templates or if-else logic has been limited (during 2009-2011) to the severely tiny limit of 40 levels, as the expansion depth limit (a hotly debated limit).

Mathematics articles and formatting[edit]

Many articles about mathematics are monitored by WP:WikiProject Mathematics for very precise formatting standards. The Portal:Mathematics is a extensive featured portal. The formatting of most mathematical formulas uses special TeX markup in the HTML tags:  <math>...</math> (see HELP:Math). However, there is also a Template:Math (using different coding) to typeset formulas within a line of text, such as: y = ax2+bx+c - 2, coded by using template "math" as:

{{math|1=y = ax<sup>2</sup>+bx+c - {{radical|2}} }}.

Greek letters can also be generated by using the standard HTML font face "symbol" (with the English alphabet) as in the Greek text: ABGD-abgd-OPR-opr-XYZ-xyz, generated by using:

<font face=symbol>ABGD-abgd-OPR-opr-XYZ-xyz</font>.

For more, see: HELP:Math.

Finding geographic maps[edit]

In the past, Wikipedia has avoided the use of detailed maps or road maps, in favor of limited, blank maps containing mostly shaded areas to indicate general borders, counties or provinces. Meanwhile, the Wikimedia Commons area contains many maps for all nations or territories, in the form of the "Wikiatlas" pages, covered with numerous maps, such as in:

Each Atlas page can vary slightly, but each contains multiple maps, such as a general map, blank-outline map, terrain map (elevation map), a precipitation map, a cities map, population map, earth-quake fault lines, and others. Also see: Wikiatlas, for a common map of Europe, map of USA, map of Italy, map of England, map of Germany, etc.

See also[edit]

 

Notes[edit]

[ The following are footnotes for the text above.]

  1. ^ Wiki variables are enclosed in double-braces, such as: {{xxx}} or {{CURRENTMONTHNAME}}.