PrattWiki:Introduction

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This page represents an introduction to the Pratt Wiki project.

Purpose

The primary purpose of this site is to serve as an easily-edited, intelligently cross-linked source of information on topics of special interest to the students, staff, and faculty of the Pratt School of Engineering.

Use

There are several different ways to use this resource. It is likely that the most common will be as a searchable source of information about items of interest to Pratt - for example, how to start MATLAB or how to get a document double-spaced in LaTeX. Hopefully, the more people interact with this site, however, the more each person will be compelled to add to it, whether it is answering questions collected in Category:Questions or taking part in conversations in the Community Portal or just editing typographical errors that crop up from time to time.

Passive Use - Searching, Reading, and Navigation

The first use - Pratt Wiki as resource - is very simple. On the left side of the window there is a search block and two buttons - Go and Search. The difference between these is as follows - Go will look for a page with a title that matches the text in the box while Search will look for pages that have text that matches. That is to say, if you want to find a page about MATLAB, you should put MATLAB in the box and click Go - if you want to see all pages that have the word MATLAB in them, slick Search. Note that the Search option will also list pages whose title contains a particular phrase.

Once you have gotten to a particular page, hopefully the information you need will be there. You can pan through the page in exactly the same way as other web pages. There may also be hyperlinks, however, that lead to other pages on this wiki, pages on other wikia, or pages not on wikia. For the former, the link will be indicated in blue - for example, the Pratt Wiki page on LaTeX can be found at LaTeX. For pages on other wikia that are a part of the Wikimedia family, the link may look the same - a link to Wikipedia's entry on LaTeX could be: wikipedia:LaTeX. For links to other web pages, a graphic after the link indicates that you will be leaving the wikiverse - for example, if you wanted to go to the LaTeX Project. Note the blue box with the arrow coming out of it telling you that you will leave the wikiverse if you click that link.

This site will be using name spaces to better organize groups of pages. For example, if you look at the URL of this page, you will notice that it is called PrattWiki:Introduction. This means that this page is in the PrattWiki name space. One way name spaces are very useful is they allow you to include or exclude entire groups of pages when performing a search. By default, only certain spaces are searched - including the main space as well as the MATLAB space. Note that those pages with no specific name space are assumed to be in the main space.

On the search page, however, you are given the option of picking other name spaces to search. This is useful if you want to include user spaces or policy pages. Furthermore, you can change the search defaults - but this is not recommended. If you do change your defaults, and the wiki creates another important namespace, you will need to change your defaults again. Generally, when a useful new namespace is created it will be added to the default search set.

Aside from searching for and reading particular pages, you may want to see what is going on with the wiki itself. There are several useful links for accomplishing this. First, there is a Recent changes link in the box at the left of the screen that will give you a list, in reverse chronological order, of all the edits that have been made to the wiki as well as who made them, when they were made, and a summary provided by the editor. There is also an option to go to a Random page which does...pretty much exactly what you would expect. Finally, there is also a link to Special pages - this will bring up a list of the special pages that the wiki can generate, including a list of All pages, a compilation of all the Categories being used, and a list of Wanted pages that shows pages that have been linked to but for which there is no content. The special pages can help both navigate and understand the site better and also point out areas that need the most work.

Active Use - Editing, Discussing, and Organizing

Once you have a sense of how the wiki works, you can start improving it. One of the best parts about a wiki is the ability of anyone to make edits and participate in the development of the site. To edit, you may first want to look at the Wikipedia pages on editing - this site uses MediaWiki, which is the same program Wikipedia uses. There will be some differences - this site does not have nearly as developed a suite of extensions, templates, and functions as Wikipedia does - but the basics are all the same. The Wikipedia tutorial continues with Formatting, Wikipedia links, External links, and Talk pages - each of those is a great resource for understanding how to make useful pages on the wiki.

There will also be some places for discussing the content of a page or of the wiki itself. Each article has its own talk page, so that is the most appropriate place for asking questions about a particular article. The Pratt Wiki has a special template - the Template:Q template - for posing a question and letting people know that a question has been added to a talk page; instructions on how to use the Template:Q are posted at the link. Another special template - unsurprising called the Template:A template - can be used on a persopn's own discussion page to let the user know an answer has been posted. Again, information on how to use the Template:A is at the link.

For more general conversations, you can go to the Community Portal. The plan for that page will be to have threaded conversations about administrative, logistical, and organizational issues that come up. If there is some large-scale change or addition you would like to see at the wiki and would like to get others' opinions about it, pose a discussion topic there. Also check in from time to time to see if a topic of interest has come up that you might weigh in on. This is a bit different from the Projects page, which is mainly a place to talk about smaller scale groups of pages, and the To Do list, which is an administrative area for wiki-related tasks.

Finally, one of the best parts about a wiki has to do with the ways in which it can be organized. One way is by making sure intra-wiki links are included as often as appropriate. For example, in writing a page about X-Win 32, it makes sense that SSH will show up in the discussion. Instead of just leaving it as SSH, throw some brackets around it so people can easily link over to the SSH page if they would like. Wikipedia has a Manual of Style that can be a helpful guide in determining what should be linked and how often (specifically, their links page in the manual; at this point in the project, however, there is no single way to go - just do your best to make the page as useful to you as possible; others may come along later and change things a bit.

Pages can also be organized by adding categories. If the category tag is placed on a page, a link to that category will be placed at the bottom of the page. Clicking on this link will go to a page that lists all entries in the same category. For example, at the bottom of the code for the MATLAB page, there is a tag that says <source="text"> [{Category:EGR 103]] </source> indicating that the MATLAB page is in a category for all things EGR 103 - related. Clicking the Category:EGR 103 link would then take you to a page listing all pages that have been deemed related to EGR 103. This is a great way to collect useful information for particular classes or any other organizational structure that makes sense. Note also that you can edit the category page to include a descritoption of the particular category - the Category:EGR 103 for example has such a description in its header.

Asking Questions

There are a variety of ways to ask questions. One way is to post a message to Dr. G's talk page - the next time he logs in the wiki will note that there is a new message; whenever someone posts to your talk page, you will see a notification the next time you log in to the wiki. Another way is to use the Template:Q template on the talk page of a particular article - editors checking the Category:Questions page will see a new page added to the list and will seek it out. Finally, you can also e-mail an administrator. At present, that would be Dr. G. If you are reading this page, you probably know how to find his e-mail address.