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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[change | change source]

Many wiki-related news events are described, briefly, in part of the monthly WP:Signpost document for Simple Wikipedia, under subpages for "news", as WP:Simple_News/Newsroom. Also, some events are posted in WP:Simple_talk.

  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[change | change source]

The wiki-technology is described, briefly, in part of the monthly English Wikipedia en: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[change | change source]

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

Installed MediaWiki
version (live):

1.24wmf20 (5365921)

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 NewPP 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. In the past, large templates could only be used a few hundred times per page, such as when a template had the help-text documentation or several HTML comments. However, now any documentation text can be skipped by using "<noinclude>" at the sections to bypass.

Wikipedia screen appearance[change | change source]

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 settings")
  • 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, Opera (browser) and Firefox.
  • At bottom section, click "SAVE" to save those new settings.

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

Wikipedia style guides or manuals[change | change source]

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

Wikipedia surveys and polls[change | change source]

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[change | change source]

The Simple 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:

  • WP:FAQ – those frequently-asked-questions & answers.
  • WP:Help desk – lists new questions about using Wikipedia.
  • en:WP:Tutorial – an overview as education about features.
  • en:WP:Reference desk – directs questions about article contents on the English Wikipedia (these are grouped in: Science, Humanities, Entertainment, etc.).

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

Wikipedia as neophyte with uneven quality[change | change source]

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[change | change source]

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[change | change source]

Wikipedia size & users
English articles: 116,315
Average revisions: 36.79
Articles per day: +36
Total wiki pages: 333,662
Total admins: 21
Total users: 384,494
UTC time: 22:22 on 2014-Sep-15

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

  •   Articles: 116,315     Total users: 384,494.

The count of users is the registered users (not IP addresses). For a table of all counts, see: Special:Statistics.

Pages can access some of 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}}).

In late 2010, the user base increased at the rate of 150 new registered users per day (from 144,000 during September 2010). The new-user rate is currently: 164 usernames per day, created on Simple Wikipedia, computed hourly (current hour as 22).

The total number of articles (currently 116,315), in the Simple Wikipedia, increases by about 14 per day. Since 18 September 2010, the new-article rate on Simple Wikipedia is currently: 36 per day, computed hourly (current hour: 22), with the rate typically 15% lower during the Spring months, but higher in August.

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

Reducing edit-conflicts[change | change source]

There are many methods to avoid edit-conflicts. 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.

Contacting admins about help, deletions, abuse[change | change source]

Generally, the admins 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. Also, there are several queueing systems to post user-requests to get various services, and some admins take turns in responding to the requests in each queue. 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 pages need to have discussion with other interested users at: "Wikipedia:Requests for deletion". The queue lines for reporting abuse are explained in the following page of Wikipedia policy topics, focused around the active list in the Wikipedia:Administrators'_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 changing those articles for 6 months (or longer). Starting a fight usually hurts the good people 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[change | change source]

Wikipedia pages are written in the MediaWiki markup language, which supports some HTML coding, and which also allows special coding for wikitables, infoboxes, navboxes, and templates (see: HELP:Template).

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 March 2010, 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: {{"xx yy"}} ==>

Mathematics articles and formatting[change | change source]

Many articles about mathematics are monitored for very precise formatting standards. 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[change | change source]

In the past, Wikipedia has avoided the use of detailed maps or road maps, in favor of limited, blank maps which had mostly shaded areas to indicate general borders (edges of regions), 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.

Related pages[change | change source]


Notes[change | change source]

[ The following are footnotes for the text above.]

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