From Helpful
Revision as of 11:55, 26 December 2010 by Helpful (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

The summary on the Main Page is shorter.

See also Help:Editing for a suggestion of the shape content can take.


This is a publicly editable wiki with the idea of augmenting information already out there, and with a healthy dose of pragmatism.

When most content out there is technical document, a summary of real-world use is nice.

When most content out there are fuzzy summaries, a more technical summary or reference is nice.

If a page ends up with both summary and a lot of details, then they should be split well so that people looking for just one of the two can find it.

That, in the end, is the point: information in a form helpful to someone specifically looking for it - the real-world audience. That's also the reason it's nice to mark partial information (e.g. 'works for me' stuff) as such.

It seems that pages written because you had (or wanted) to figure something specific, did, and want a record. That immediate need to want something in a succinct style seems to lead to good pages.

On style and content

It's useful to communicate the relative value of a statement. On the 'net, it's often more important than the information itself (consider how you tend to disbelieve most forum content and other overly assertive stuff).

So try to use qualifiers ('usually', 'apparently', etc.) and markers like {{verify}}. Add them to assertions (others's, your own) when you doubt they are pure fact, remove them from any assertions you're verified.

Links to some of the useful existing content out there is always nice

Brevity is valued when it leads to bite-sized readability - so as a tendency, not a requirement. 'course, a few choice boldface words and some good splitting into section headers can be just as nice for skimmability.

Content has a long-term life here when the answer to "will this be interesting to someone specifically looking for information on this" is yes, or at least more positive than "erm, maybe?".

Yeah, that's a fuzzy and subjective criterion, but probably also a useful one since it avoids a prohibitive bulk of policy notes. I'd rather make this about cooperating people than rules.

Expect content to change, be rewritten into something more succinct when possible (or, say, more separation into 'good tidbits' and 'more detail for those who care').

Messy-notes-while-learning-something-new are also welcome -- arguably the best content as long as it's got notes about its own missing spots.

If you like these idea but it still feels a little restrictive, I encourage you to start your own. I think a bulk of wikis like this would be pretty damn cool.

There are certain topics (say, statistics, electronics), where there is seems to be mainly beginner content, no intermediate discussion, and then a lot of fragments of hard information without reasons, discussions in very specific contexts, and such - in other words, where you need a lot commitment to extract the actually-not-so-complex information you need.

I am experimenting with some pages that try sit somewhere between beginner and intermediate level to help bridge that. ('course, that's a lot of work, so most are not very good yet).

Many articles here are in the data collection phase (
), still waiting to be boiled down. Feel free to contribute information and nice rewriting.


Things like wikipedia focus on a very general public. Tutorial pages focus on people with a lot of basic knowledge. Blog pages tend to assume the most common setup and usually give little suggestion how it would work under even mild variation. Specific how-to can be awesome (I love instructables and such) but usually offer little background. Friends tend to have good summaries, but details from those are often quickly forgotten.

Something inbetween those is nice whenever it's not too much bother.

Consider how some experienced people, informative books and such are good at separating angles and aspects, like:

  • "Okay, the reason you want this is ..." <quick description of problem and solution>
  • "this usually practically works out as..." <instructions> and/or <just the relevant cold hard details>
  • "...because..." <current context and assumptions, and comparisons where necessary>
  • "But when you think about it, it's just a case of / similar to ..." <abstraction that makes it easier to remember>

This is partly an experiment in trying to write down things with that in mind.