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Bad Editing Habits : Too many pointless subpages

This is an article that explains often recurring issues with creating and managing subpages, including issues with overabundance of low-content or orphaned subpages.

Starting point info

First of all, what do we mean by “subpage” in the context of this wiki ?

It isn't a technical term, it has nothing to do with anything technical pertaining to the DokuWiki software's inner workings. A “subpage” is simply a colloquialism that we'll be using, for lack of a better term.

The usefulness of subpages and why they're created

Many successful timelines or Shared Worlds projects grow over time (especially if they last for years) and in time, some of them occassionally require more wiki pages/articles for documentation than just a single one. Let's say some timeline grows so expansive that a separate wiki page listing all the major events, or the major historical characters, or even just the individual chapters of the timeline becomes needed. This is where the concept of the “subpage” comes into play. The original article on the timeline becomes the main article in such a situation, and newly created articles on more specific topics are linked to from that main article. Subpages can be gradually expanded according to a writer's or audience's needs.

However, there are some issues along the way. Getting to grips with them right from the start is a good opportunity to avoid the worst of trial-and-error additions and editing of subpages. Hopefully, readers will find the information and advice included in the following three sections to be handy when thinking about working on subpages for a larger project's documentation here on the wiki.

The complication: Low-content subpages

Like with many things in life, “too much of a good thing” can become detrimental to some ongoing project's documentation on the wiki. Less is often more. Before one goes about creating any subpages, he or she should be vary of giving in to the temptation of megalomania.

Yes, obviously everyone loves the idea of writing a super-detailed, long-running, utterly epic alternate history that will naturally require quite a bit of thorough documentation over time. It's an encouraging sign that there's plenty of things to cover and people want to see them covered, because they care about the content. But it's very easy to go a little overboard with one's projections and expectations towards any particular project. Creating an inordinate amount of subpages for the project that will barely (if ever) see any use in the future is one such pitfall.

For instance, does it make automatic sense to create subpages for every single country existing at some point in your particular timeline ? What if you're not even sure whether you'll get to covering each and every one of them as your timeline progresses ? You might even grow bored of the timeline at some point and abandon it, leaving behind many near-blank subpages for minute topics concerning your timeline that you never got the chance to cover. Problems like this are one of the biggest issues with subpages: Authors getting a little too cocky and carried away, putting the cart before the horse, even though they don't have interesting content to fill a particular subpage yet.

Further complication: The "subpage should = new namespace !" mistake

This is an issue that extends to the inappropriate overuse of namespaces in general. While DokuWiki software allows for the “stacking” of namespaces into one longer namespace, it's an editing option that needs some thought put into it. This is because there's a major downside to it: The more namespaces you include into any given adress into the wiki, the longer the adress will be, as well as more complicated. Adding more namespaces to an adress doesn't really expand the title of that adress itself, because the only thing counted as the name of the page in the adress is the bit that comes after the last colon in the adress.

For example, you're writing a timeline called “Dutch Glory” (with a wiki adress in the vein of “timelines:dutch_glory”, sans parentheses) and you want to create some necessary subpages for that work. Maybe one about the timeline's chronology of events. You open up editing on the TL's main page, add in the links for the new subpages aaand… here you have a dilemma. If you'd go for the classic approach to creating an adress/link for this new subpage, you'd probably create something in the vein of “timelines:dutch_glory_chronology” or “timelines:dutch glory_chronological_timeline” or “timelines:dutch_glory_events” and so on. If you'd go for the “namespace-stacking” approach, you could instead get, e.g. “timelines:dutch_glory:chronology”, in which only the term “chronology” will ever show up in the wiki's search function. The software doesn't recognise the added namespaces (“:dutch_glory:”) as just another part of the subpage's name. It can only register the “chronology” bit as the subpage's actual name and. It will ignore all of the text that comes before the colon in front of that name. The “…_dutch_glory…” bit will thus be recognised by the software as part of a second namespace within the “timelines:” namespace, but not as part of the whole name of a subpage's adress. To further complicate matters, unless you put the timeline's main wiki page under that same secondary namespace (“timelines:dutch_glory:”), only the subpages you've created with such a longer adress will be counted as part of the secondary namespace (i.e. “timelines:dutch_glory”, but “timelines:dutch_glory:chronology”, “timelines:dutch_glory:royalty”, etc., instead of the simpler “timelines:dutch_glory_chronology”, “timelines:dutch_glory_royalty”…). This is why excessive overuse of namespaces in any page's adress, subpages included, is discouraged (for the sake of better searching for pages and easier writing of adresses/links on the wiki).

Useful tips for handling subpages

In order to avoid the aforementioned problematic aspects of creating subpages for your (or others') projects on the wiki, here are some general useful tips:

Tip 1.: Think hard about whether a new subpage is really needed. Not about whether it will be needed in maybe two years time, etc., but now, at that exact moment in the creative process for whatever project's being worked on. A good reason for creating a subpage is that the main article about the timeline/story/RP/map game/whathaveyou is getting too long and cluttered to comfortably navigate and read. Maybe even your own readers are complaining about said issue. In such a situation, creating a subpage is perfectly justified in every way.
Tip 2.: Prefer to avoid making wholly new namespaces-within-namespaces as an alternative to proper subpages. On a “mundane use” level, it only makes things needlessly more difficult for yourself and other wiki contributors - especially when it comes to linking between articles. No one will tell you “Don't use namespaces for this, it's forbidden !”, but if you have to pick between overall ease of use and flashiness, you should go with the former. The wiki is primarily about practicality. Making it a hassle to navigate or find things that you need isn't much of an avantgarde statement, it just lowers the enjoyment of using the whole endeavour.
Tip 3.: With the previous points in mind, one thing to never forget is that the adress of the subpage needs to be logical and intuitive. If you want people to find it easily, either via pressing a link from the main article or by using the search function of the wiki, go for descriptive, unambiguous words. Let's imagine your hypothetical TL, “Dutch Glory”, needs a subpage about the ATL's alternate royalty on the Dutch throne or the thrones of Europe. The timeline's main (or primary) page has the wiki adress “timelines:dutch_glory” (sans parentheses). So, what should the royalty subpage's adress be like ? For instance, you could go for “timelines:dutch_glory_royalty”, or maybe “timelines:dutch_glory_royals”, and so on. Don't fret if the subpage adress isn't named exactly the same as the title heading of the subpage. You can put whatever you want in the title of the article itself, it's never constrained by an what the adress looks like. Keeping the subpage adress short, easy to type in, easy to search for and find, should always be a primary consideration.

See Also

Pages lacking crosslinking

Stop spamming the Wiki Landshark! - A somewhat funnier older thread, where the outrage in the title is more amicable than serious. Landshark was criticised here (years ago, during the wiki's infancy) for creating too many unfinished subpages, too many red links on pages, and too many pages without adequate crosslinking.

manual_of_style/too_many_pointless_subpages.txt · Last modified: 2016/06/02 09:35 by petike