MediaWiki Content Organizing Features: Namespaces, Categories

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Necessity of Organizing Content

As the site grows, the numbers of users and articles also grow. The necessity of organized content arises because:

  • As the number of users keeps growing, the articles and other contents such as images, media files, etc., will keep growing. In order to maintain the large number of articles and content, we need a proper structured system to organize all the content. Think of a library where hundreds and thousands of books are kept. If those books are not kept in order, then where should a person look for a particular book? For users, it will be really nice to have proper organized content rather than disjoint and unorganized content.
  • As the number of articles keeps growing, it is also necessary to categorize them. It is very easy to find a particular article and maintain it based on the category. Carrying on our library example, if we keep a section for horror books, and under this section we keep relevant comics, stories, novels, and movies, then it will be much easier for someone to point to the horror section and find the right movie there. One thing we have to remember: the more organized a site is, the more user friendly it is. Users love sites that are friendly to use and adopt.
  • Sometimes it is required to break an article in several pages as the article is very big and difficult to maintain on a single page. Users usually have to scroll through the huge amount of text, and this can be problematic. Also, editing a huge amount of content at once can be difficult. So we need to know how we can manage such big articles by breaking them into sub-pages and also keeping them together so that user can find them easily.

MediaWiki can help us in this regard. MediaWiki has some built-in features that can make our task very easy and simple. These software features are very important components of MediaWiki since organizing in a collaborative community is not that easy. We will now focus on a few MediaWiki features that can be used for better content organization.

MediaWiki Content Organizing Features

MediaWiki handles these major issues without any problem or complexity whatsoever. The concept and the application of organizing content in MediaWiki are easy to grasp and apply. MediaWiki has the following software features to strengthen its organizing ability.

  • Namespaces
  • Categories
  • Templates
  • Sections
  • Redirection

We will now explore some of the features in detail with examples.

Namespaces

Namespaces are used to group together similar type of contents. Namespaces divide a wiki into different areas so that each functional area is clearly defined. Namespaces can segregate different types of content that may exist under the same title. Generally, namespaces should not be used to categorize content of the same type as we can use categories for that.

The namespaces that come with MediaWiki illustrate this “content type” distinction:

  • The Main, un-prefixed, namespace is for the primary content to be maintained in the wiki.
  • The Talk namespaces are for discussion.
  • The Project namespace is for policies, votes, and meta-information.
  • The Image namespace is for images.

Namespaces allow separation of content for better management. One thing about a namespace is that it is not created by the users themselves. MediaWiki has some pre-defined namespaces and administration can add new namespaces if required. The namespaces that are added by the administrator are known as custom namespaces. It is always important to let users know about the custom namespaces available in the site.

Like the Image namespace, there are 17 other namespaces available in MediaWiki for special purposes. So when should one create a custom namespace? Essentially, if you have some type of content that you feel is substantially different from the content in the existing namespaces, you may want to consider creating a new namespace. For our Haunted site, we can have a movie namespace, so as to accommodate movie descriptions and trailers. Now let us focus on how we can use namespaces.

A page title in MediaWiki consists of two parts separated by a colon (:). The part before the colon is the (optional) namespace, and the part after the colon is the required page title. An example page title with a namespace is Help:Namespace, which will take us to the Namespace page under the Help namespace.

A page title without a colon belongs to the Main namespace. There are as many as 18 namespaces in MediaWiki, among which two are used as pseudo namespace, and 16 separate namespaces are defined by MediaWiki. Although there are 16 defined namespaces in MediaWiki, eight of them are talk pages of remaining eight namespaces.

A talk page is a special type of page used for discussions. On a talk page, users can communicate as in a forum. They can write their views or share their ideas on certain topics. Every page and namespace has an associated talk page (except for the Special namespace).

Here is a list of 18 namespaces in MediaWiki and a summary of their functionalities:

Namespace

Functionality

Media

This is the first pseudo namespace in MediaWiki. It is used for uploaded files.

Special

This is the second and last pseudo namespace in MediaWiki. It is used for listing all special pages.

Main

This is the core namespace that holds all the pages without specifying any namespace in front of the title. Pages under this namespace are also known as normal pages. The content we have added so far to our Haunted site is inside the Main namespace.

Talk

The Talk namespace holds talk pages for the Main namespace. Talk pages are used for discussion. The Talk namespace is used for all the discussion pages under the Main namespace.

User

This namespace is used for every registered user in MediaWiki. Every registered user has a homepage, and all homepages are stored under the User namespace and can be accessed by a User:username link. Users can use this page as their profile page.

User_talk

User talk pages are used for discussions on user pages.

Project

This namespace provides information about the current project or wiki, such as guidelines, ideas, future plans, etc.

Project_talk

This talk page is used for the Project namespace.

Image

Used for images and other uploaded file information. Description of the file such as file size, version, etc., can be found here.

Image_talk

This is the talk page for the Image namespace.

MediaWiki

This namespace is used for system messages defined for the current wiki or project. These messages are either editable by a registered user, or sysops can turn off editing for security reasons.

MediaWiki_talk

This is the talk page for the MediaWiki namespace.

Template

This is used as the default namespace for templates, another feature that is used for integrating a page into another page. We will learn about templates later in this chapter.

Template_talk

This is the talk page for the Template namespace.

Help

 

This is typically used for building help content for wiki users. All the help-related information is stored here.

Help_talk

 

This is the talk page for the Help namespace.

Category

 

Pages can be put into categories. The Category namespace shows a list of categories inside the wiki, and upon clicking a category, a list of pages under the category along with additional text is also shown.

Category_talk

 

This is the talk page for the Category namespace.

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