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Document last modified: Fri, 18 Feb 2005, 11:45 UTC
Parents: WikiHelp/

Wiki Help/Wiki Categories

This page explains the concept of wiki categories, they way they are on this site's wiki engine. It can be quite confusing, so please add your questions in italic after the paragraphs you don't understand and someone knowledgeable will eventually add answers.

1 What are they?
2 What categories are not
3 Which is the category and which is the page title?
4 How do we use them?
5 Special feature: the menu path
6 Should we use categories on this wiki?

1) What are they?

Wiki categories tend to be a bit confusing. First because the exact meaning and behaviour of categories varies from one wiki engine to another; second, because they are not exactly similar to hard-drive directories, yet people tend to think they are.

Simply put, categories are just pages that contain slashes (/) in their name. The page you are reading right now is such a page.

There is no kind of separation performed due to the slash! The page title is simply made of one piece, and it contains slashes. It's not a filesystem path. Pretend the slash was a dash if it helps.

2) What categories are not

They are not a classification system. A true classification system would allow any page to state that it belongs to any number of categories, or the other way around, categories would be able to state what pages belong to them.

They are not a full hierarchical system. They emulate some kind of hierarchical system, but it's all based on common consent and self implied, not enforced in any way.

3) Which is the category and which is the page title?

You could say that all the segments of the title separated by slashes (except for the last) are category names, and the last segment is the page name. But that's not really true: This/That is a different page from That or from This. There doesn't have to be a page called That or This if This/That exists.

The name itself is therefore misleading, because there isn't actually a "category" to speak of, it's just several pages (such as This/That and This/Foobar) that start with This/. It's just a convention, that's all that is.

4) How do we use them?

Simply making /WikiLinks that contain slashes will render them as /WikiLinks. Example: WikiHelp/WikiLinks.

As you may have noticed in the above paragraph, you can also use a shortcut notation: /WikiLinks is a link which points to the same page as WikiHelp/WikiLinks. But that's only true because right now we're on the WikiHelp/WikiCategories page. In other words, when you use the shortcut notation (ie. start with a slash) the engine takes the current page's name without the last segment and prepends it to your link. So this notation only produces the desired result if used on a page which is also in the same "category".

The shorthand notation is useful because the links are easier to read, but be careful with it because it may not always produce the result you intended.

5) Special feature: the menu path

As you may have noticed, in the top menu there is a shortcut to the WikiHelp page. The wiki engine examined this page's title, saw the slash, and decided it's most likely that the WikiHelp page exists and that the community probably intended for it to be higher in the "hierarchy" than this page. So it created a link to it.

Most often this presumption is correct. Of course, not always. There may have been no WikiHelp page and then the above link would've been a "create this page" link.

Anyway, this feature aims to provide some kind of "path navigation" system and is most often useful even though there's not really such thing as a hierarchy with these "categories".

6) Should we use categories on this wiki?

There's an ongoing debate whether categories should never be used, always be used (ie. all pages should be in a category) or whether they should be used sparingly.

PRO's:

CON's:


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Document last modified: Fri, 18 Feb 2005, 11:45 UTC
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